The artist Dan Ladd is drawn to plants, from trees to gourds, as material for art.
Back in the 1970s, he started experimenting with adding inert materials to trees, growing two bicycle wheels snuggly into a sycamore trunk, for instance. He uses molds to grow gourds into finely detailed sculptures, and he’s guided trees to grow into arches, boxes, boat frames, and other striking shapes.
It’s a slow art, in which “the actions I take are merely suggestions,” he writes.
The Five Elm Arches in Woodstock Vermont, once covered 58 feet of ground; only part of the sculpture still exists today. Originally, Ladd shaped the trees using wiring and metal frames, until the Elm wood stiffened and held the shape he had imagined. It’s possible to visit the trees at the site of Sculpturefest in Vermont (where another work of tree art, Bonnie Gale’s Living Willow is also growing). Another arches piece is installed at the Smith College MacLeish Field Station.
Many of Ladd’s other tree-shaping projects, such as the Sycamore Box Frame in Putney, can be found around Vermont, and it’s possible to commission one, too.