Oct. 29-Nov. 4, 1999
U.Va. to host public forum with alumni about the future of the Internet age
Former dean Raymond J. Nelson receives U.Va.'s Thomas Jefferson Award
U.Va.'s foster families fill the breach for children in need

Conference explores ways to internationalize universities

Winston, Weaver 'rapt' up Film Festival
Sigourney Weaver on motherhood and other roles
Sharing digital resources to help teachers use technology in class
Hot Links - President's Office
Film, panelists explore 'digital divide' in computer access
After Hours - arborist Jerry Brown
U.Va. well on its way to ringing in the Year 2000 without a systems glitch
Off the Shelf - recently published books
Digital prints on display Nov. 1-29
CEO of Pew Trusts to give talk Nov. 3

After Hours

Jerry Brown

Rebecca Arrington

U.Va. arborist Jerry Brown poses with one of his chainsaw sculptures, a bear carved from a black gum that died this summer due to drought and had to be removed from the woods near Stadium Road dorms.

Chainsaw is tool of trade and craft for arborist Jerry Brown

By Rebecc Arrington

'Gators and bears on the Grounds, oh my! 'Gators and bears on the Grounds

There's no need for fear or a medal for courage. The creatures are wooden -- the whimsical works of U.Va. woodsman Jerry Brown.

The University's only full-time arborist, Brown cares for the many varieties of trees that grow here. His job also includes removing diseased or damaged trees. These lifeless limbs provide the fodder for Brown's creative outlet, chainsaw sculpting. If he likes the location of the sick or felled trees, he leaves their stumps intact and transforms them into works of art.

Brown took up his folksy hobby several years ago after seeing a roadside demonstration by another chainsaw artist. "I watched him awhile and said to myself, 'I can do that,'" Brown recalled. And so he has ever since.

He revs up his chainsaw at home in North Garden, where he carves chains and Indian sculptures from fallen trees. The father of four, he crafted a rocking bull for his youngest son from a fallen limb, the shape of which lent itself to the massive animal, he said.

Brown did his first chainsaw sculpture at U.Va. last year. He carved a wooden Indian from a pine stump at the Copeley Hill playground. The kids were enthralled, he said. So was one of the mothers, who named the finished piece "Chief Copeley. Later, when Brown returned to the playground to remove another pine, he wound up carving an alligator from the fallen tree. He selects the sites for his sculptures carefully, picking places where he hopes people will enjoy them. Some of his works can be seen across from the Law School (one spells out "UVALAW"). Another is near Stadium Road dorms. It's a bear that sits at the edge of the woods. He carved it this summer after cutting down a large black gum that had succumbed to drought. Ironically, students had placed an umbrella in the bear's paws a few weeks later to keep the rain off, he noted.

Brown, who has worked at U.Va. for five years, times the carving of his U.Va. sculptures around work breaks and quitting time. He also knows his creations wouldn't be welcome just anywhere on Grounds -- the historic Lawn for one. But they're well-received by Brown's favorite patrons, the students and children. At any given time when he drives past the playground, he sees "Chief" adorned with all sorts of goodies. "Making chainsaw sculptures for them is the most rewarding," he said.

The inspiration for his creations comes from a number of sources, he says -- his imagination, the natural shapes of the pieces of wood he finds, and the Internet, where he studies other chainsaw artists' work.

"I need a lot of practice" to be in their league, said Brown, who sees his avocation more as an outgrowth of his professional interest in tree preservation efforts.

Brown has learned the ropes of his trade from the ground up over the past 15 years, starting out in saw mills, then becoming a timber cutter and next switching to tree care and maintenance. When he arrived in Virginia, he studied arbor culture, and today applies all that he knows about trees in his current job.

"I left working for large tree-care companies to come here. It's more satisfying," said Brown, who hopes to "watch the trees grow old with me."

"Chief Copeley"Roots of stump art

From images of bears, eagles and elk to Buddha and a Presbyterian preacher, chainsaw sculpture is a relatively new, but steadily growing art form in the U.S. Artists travel the country doing exhibitions for city, county and state fairs. Works are commissioned for parks, private homes and gardens, golf courses, restaurants and businesses. They are also sold in a number of stores and catalog outlets nationwide. The artists take pride in the fact that their work doesn't destroy natural resources. Rather, it creates something new from something that was sick or fallen.

"Chief Copeley" (right) is another of Brown's creations that can be found at the Copeley Hill playground, as well as the alligator (left) that he sculpted from a fallen pine.


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