On May 6, the sound of chainsaws will fill the College of the Redwoods campus. Rather than pitting loggers versus environmental activists, the sound of the chainsaws will herald the arrival of three of the country's most accomplished chainsaw artists to the CR campus. College of the Redwoods student Jessie Groeschen literally wrote the book on chainsaw carving.
Her 2005 book "Art of Chainsaw Carving: An Insider's Look at 18 Artists Working Against the Grain" is arguably the definitive book on the subject. In addition to her writing, Jessie is an accomplished chainsaw sculptor. Groeschen will be joined by Pat McVay of Whidbey Island, Washington and Pennsylvania-based carver Zoe Boni. The trio will showcase their unorthodox carving methods in a day-long demonstration on the CR campus that will also be free and open to the public. The carving demonstration will be followed by a lecture and book signing at the Accident Gallery in Eureka.
With its bountiful supplies of lumber, tourists and talented artists, the North Coast is a mecca for chainsaw carving. North Coast residents used to passing shops filled with large carved bears and Sasquatch figures on Highway 101 might be surprised to find out that chainsaw carving is a growing field, filled with passionate artists who work in a variety of abstract, figurative or even conceptual styles. A recent New York Times article on Cherie Currie, founding member of rock band The Runaways (the subject of a recent film starring Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning) made a point of mentioning Currie's new life as a chainsaw carver.
Currie, who is a longtime friend of event organizer Jessie Groeschen said,
"To be able to create something beautiful through brutal force, just rocks. When it's just me, the log and the saw, I find peace and am astonished at what a gift this creative process has been in my life. I have found the organic 'me' through the wood and the power of spirit through that wonderful machine, the chainsaw."
College of the Redwoods professor Garth Johnson, who writes about the conjoined worlds of art and craft on his blog, Extreme Craft (www.extremecraft.com) believes that chainsaw carving is ripe for a revival. "Chainsaw carving has an immediacy that is impossible with other forms of sculpture like casting, stone carving or even welding. The world of chainsaw carving is enlivened by the passion exhibited by the artists, who combine their outlaw sensibility with a level of detail that should be impossible with their chosen tools."
Groeschen, McVay and Boni have all carved competitively in contests around the world. Zoe Boni recently took first place against eight of her heroes in a qualifying match for the Echo Cup National in New Mexico, where she placed fifth. Her parents also host the largest chainsaw carving festival in the country, the Ridgway Chainsaw Carvers Rendezvous. McVay got involved in woodworking when he started repairing furniture for a local café where caffeinated patrons involved in intense discussions often damaged the chairs and tables.
This eventually led to his current large-scale work with chainsaws. In addition to making her own artwork, Jessie Groeschen is a tireless booster for her field. In addition to her book, Jessie co-founded "The Cutting Edge" newsletter for the Cascade Chainsaw Sculptors Guild, and has also written articles for "Chip Chats" and "Woodcarving UK".
The chainsaw carving demonstration will be held on Thursday, May 6 outside of the Creative Arts building at College of the Redwoods from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It will be followed by a lecture and book signing at the Accident Gallery, 210 C Street in Eureka at 8 p.m.
For details, call College of the Redwoods professor Garth Johnson at 714-642-1681 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Examples of the visiting artists' work at www.groeschen.com or www.mcvaysculpture.com.