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
Chainsaw is tool of trade and craft for arborist Jerry Brown
'Gators and bears on the Grounds, oh my! 'Gators and bears
on the Grounds Š
no need for
fear or a medal for courage. The creatures are wooden -- the whimsical
works of U.Va. woodsman Jerry Brown.
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.
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
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.² 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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."
of stump art
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.
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.