Art For Everyone : Public Art Installations

Read about the whole point of "Looking Around London" at this link here.

Get started with my pictures and thoughts on the London Tree Trunk Tour here.

The Tree Trunk Tour is going to be on Hamilton Road, and I'm blogging its creation here.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Western Fair

On the south side of Dundas St, East of the end on King St. is 'Western Fair' a large and complex carving that is an official stop on London's Tree Trunk Tour. The sculpture is a trunk that was carved on site, in Queens Park, which is on the northmost edge of the Western Fair District, an entertainment zone located east of the downtown core in London.

This trunk incorporates many of the ideas that the fair involves itself with, both past and present. Let's break them down one by one.

First up is our country singer, perched on the edge of one of the original branches of this tree trunk. He has a very realistic guitar and microphone, and his feet are staggered as he steps towards the mic. This part of the carving is a standout from any angle, but as pictured, he balances out the title of the piece nicely.

The very top of the sculpture is a Ferris wheel, perched atop where fireworks have been carved in relief. The wheel looks tiny, as is is easily over 25 feet in the air. This is certainly the tallest carving that has been completed on the tour so far. You can also see the tracks of a roller coaster winding itself all around the carving.

The carving's cars represent the miniature cars of the Mouse roller coaster that stood on the Western Fair Grounds from 1959 to 2006.

Each car was carved separately, then tacked on, but I find them one of the more endearing elements of the piece.

There are quite a few animals represented, as the Western Fair District was originally an association that ran an annual agricultural fair on the property. The Western Fair has shifted its focus over the last 140 years, but we still have a large pig's torso rising out of the side of the trunk. Behind him are the 4 suits of a deck of cards, representing the gambling facilities now attached to the racetrack, though there are no live card games that can be played, only slots and video poker.

Around the side of the trunk from the pig, are a chicken and duck. They appear to be leaping outward from the middle of the tree. Much of this sculpture seems to be in motion, and the overall effect is certainly to infuse a kind of wacky or fun feeling into the piece. The Western Fair is about fun and activity, so it suits its location well.

Down below the other elements is a very realistic horse's head. This was also carved separately in a workshop and added later. It has a very smooth surface finish, and lots of detail in the mane. The eyes are also inserts of either plastic or glass. The Western Fair Raceway has been London's only site for live harness racing for over 100 years, and has held night racing since 1961.

There is a simple block text dedication which indicates that the commission for the piece was done in honour of the Fair's 140th anniversary.

The other things I look at on every piece are the signature, and any obvious condition issues. This is another Robbin Wenzoski carving. He did the vast majority of the 14 tree trunks done between 2006 and 2009. This is a block letter version of the RaW ART logo.

There are definitely age related cracks up and down the trunk, though the overall condition appears to be good. The delicately carved Ferris wheel on the top has a problem, though. One of its supports has snapped, and the wheels leans at a definite angle, making it look like an extreme version of the ride. Its tough to say if the wind and snow did the damage, or if something was throw at it intentionally.
One of the reasons I am trying keep a record of this work, is because I think it has real value to a community. These kinds of installations tell us instantly where we, Londoners, are in the world, that there is no place that is exactly like our home. Something creative and beautiful in our community, it can become a way to identify with where we live for all the right reasons.
The other reason I like doing this is because I can come away with memories of moments like this one....
Click it for the full sized picture, as always.

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Check out all the entries using the London Art Map

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Woodfield 1840-2007

"Woodfield" is a carving located  at 581 William St. in downtown London. It is near the west end of Rosedale Av. The sculpture commemorates the neighbourhood known as Woodfield, which covers most of the east side of the downtown core. A brief history of the neighbourhood can be found on the Woodfield Community Association's website.

The title of the carving is very prominent on this trunk, large letters at eye level stand out very well. I think it reflects the pride that the sponsors have in their community. This is the same organization that commissioned the first carved trunk, 'Convergence' on Peter St.

The main carving on the side of tree is a squirrel, carved in relief, hiding behind a tree. The winding roots and branches carry the eye both up and down around the tree.

As the tree pattern continues, we see the leaves of the tree, which appear to be that of a silver maple. I will, in future, try to find information about what kind of trunk this was actually carved out of.

 The top of the tree, when viewed from the south side, is taken up by four very weighty looking acorns. large oak leaves are draped down from the trunk cap.

When viewed from the north side, however, we see that the acorns were hiding the real prize, a rather amusingly depicted squirrel, digging for all he's worth! Half his body has disappeared into the tree, but if he wants to hid the massive acorns, he'll need a big hole.

Well, would you look at that, it appears he's stuck his head out halfway down the tree! That's determination. I'm curious if we are being led to believe that this little guy lives in Squirreltopia! Or that he's just blessed with a huge stash of acorns.

I always try to take a look at the signature on a piece, if I can find one, and this is a Robbin Wenzoski creation, as are most of the trunks on the tour. Its the block letter logo this time. The tree also had the official Tree Trunk Tour plug inserted into it. I first noticed it on the carving "Come Together and Grow". I'm a bit surprised to find it's not on every trunk.

Condition issues are usually the last thing I note, and this trunk has a lot of damage on unsealed areas. It looks like mother nature is trying to do what it would to a normal dead tree, and the insects and fungus are starting to take their toll.

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Check out all the entries using the London Art Map

Monday, 17 October 2011


If you are wondering, perhaps, where the London Tree Trunk Tour began, I would likely direct you to Peter St. in downtown London. Peter St. is a short side street, perhaps 200 meters long, and it is the home to the Robbin Wenzoski sculpture entitled "Convergence".

As detailed in the London Free Press article from 2005, there was no Tourism London partnership or Stihl Canada sponsorship. It does confirm that the original idea came from Orangeville, and the Woodfield Heritage Association raised the money to pay for the first commission.

The Free Press article also mentions that the nature of the commission allowed Mr Wenzoski to have creative freedom with the final piece. The final result is a sculpture with lots of flowing lines and a few different features. On the north side, we have a sun, created to look like an 8 pointed star. Its a similar motif as used on the work 'Shining Brightly' on Dundas St.

On the top third of the trunk, we have an owl perched, wings down. He is looking across the street, towrds the house at 23 Peter St. There is also an owl on top of the Learning Tree on Queens Av.

The trunk itself sits beside 518 Queens Ave, which is the Queens Village retirement residence. its a very large manor house, which has been added onto and had previously served as a nursing home. It is now a retirement building.

As is customary in my look at the tree carvings, I like to note the artist's signature. Just the initials here, no logo or stylization, but a Robbin Wenzoski work nonetheless. The evolution of the signature is an interesting hint as to when the piece was completed.

The last thing I consider when documenting a piece like this is any condition issues. These trunks are outdoors, unsheltered and close to the road. May of them are in very good condition, but 'Convergence' is the exception. There doesn't appear to have been any effort at protection or maintaining this sculpture since its creation, and six years later, it shows. There is a shelf like mushroom growing on one side of the tree. The cracks are much deeper than on the other trunks, and there is significant loss of detail on the upper surfaces and on the owl.

Hopefully someone takes a look at this piece in the near future and can work out a way to help preserve it, otherwise there may be one less stop on the official Tree Trunk Tour.

Return to the Tree Trunk Tour Overview Page
Check out all the entries using the London Art Map

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Donohue's Canadiana

At the corner of King St and Waterloo St, stands 'Donohue's Canadiana' a large and complex entry on London's Tree Trunk Tour. It is located at the edge of the parking lot of the Donohue Funeral Home. This is, in my opinion, one of the finest examples of what can be achieved in the chainsaw carving art form. The theme of the piece is Canadian wildlife, though most of the animals and plants depicted are native to Ontario.

Please, click for a larger version of the pics.

Those 2 views do include most of the elements on the tree, but let's take a closer look at some of them, as we usually do.

At the top of the tree are several different features. the first is a Trillium, the official flower of Ontario. It's notable for its three wide petals, and long stamens in the center. The Ontario Government. uses the trillium as its provincial symbol. 


 At the other end is a wide open 5 pointed flower that might be a Carolina Spring Beauty. Both flowers are on thick stalks, but reach several feet above the central trunk.


Also on the upper, open spires of the tree, is a bee, perched in the middle of a daisy, or possibly a sunflower. Honeybees are an important part of Ontario's wildlife, and the province is well known for its honey. If I ever see a bee that is this large in relation to a sunflower, I'm moving to a different part of the planet.

Though obviously not to scale, the detail on the bee is very nice at this size.


On the third side, facing west, is a bird of prey sitting on a branch. Though Ontario is home to several different hawks and falcons, this might represent the Red Tailed Hawk. They are one of the largest hawks, and quite common in Ontario. Their high pitched cry is often the movie sound effect used for all birds of prey, and as such is well known to most people.

Depicted above the perched hawk is a Canada Goose, wings fully outstretched. We'll take a better look at him later.

Moving down to the next level of the piece, there are couple of items carved in-the-round here as well. The first, on the north side, is a woodpecker. Wikipedia lists 8 species of Woodpecker that are native to Ontario. This one is perfectly perched to start rapping away. He has a nicely shaped and detailed crest.


On the inside edge of one of the main 'spires' of the trunk is a large snail. His smoothly polished shell is noticeably different in texture that much of the rest of the the carving. Even his eyes have been shaped, showing serious attention to detail.

Thought we were done? No, no our design is just getting started, having worked his magic in-the- round on the top side of this trunk, Robbin Wenzoski shows us a talent for working in relief on the bottom half.

Off on its own is a lovely, deeply incised Lily of the Valley. The simple layers of each petal stand out very well.

There is a butterfly spread across the width of the tree with two five-pointed flowers. The markings on the wings would indicate it represents the Monarch a species which migrates from Ontario to Mexico and back again every year.

There is some cracking in the wood here, but I would argue it adds to the overall artistic effect.

And what could be more Canadian than the beaver? Mr. Beaver is tucked into the tree here, sitting on a few rocks. He stares at us, just as we stare in at him, his wide, rounded tail sits exposed. The pose leaves no question as to what animal we are looking at.

This side of the trunk is, packed full of different elements, stained with different tones of brown. We have the artists RAW ART logo in a heart shaped frame at the top. The 2008 date note is also in the frame. There are an owl, wings fully outstretched, beside a standing Great Blue Heron. Lower down there are two animals, which appear to be weasels, one climbing on a rock, and below that there is a turtle with a deeply grooved shell.

It is a really well executed mix. I find it more impressive to think it was done with a series of chainsaws.

To the left of the previous photo, facing more to the southeast, are more elements of the Canadian wilderness. The flowers at the left appear to be lupins, they and the large spider are tucked into the roots of the 'tree' created by shaping the top of the trunk.

Just above the frog is and inscription '39-'08 CRD. I was told by a member of the Donohue family that this is in memory of Catherine Donohue, who passed away shortly before the carving was completed.

As usual, we take a quick look at the artist's signature, and at anywhere condition issues may affect the work.

Things look quite stable, and all of the carved elements have great colour and texture. It is easy to see how the tree was having trouble when it was still alive, as its been paved in right up to the edges of its roots.

And now, back to my favourite part of 'Donohue's Canadiana". The Canada Goose at the top of the north side is just great to look at. First, with wing fully extended, it looks more like a jet aircraft than a bird, and its tucked in feet and extended neck really give it a feeling of speed. Second, tilting it perpendicular to the ground makes viewing the top and bottom of the bird possible, and ensures that no detail is lost, hidden in permanent shadow. In my opinion, superb choices.

If you have read some other entries on the site, I think the length of this one, and the number of pictures say a lot about how much I admire the work put into its creation and the results achieved. I don't think rating art as good or bad is very fair, as tastes vary between people. I would say this is one of my personal favorites, and certainly, if you were only going to visit one or two of the trees on the tour, I would put this at the top of the list.

Return to the Tree Trunk Tour Overview Page
Check out all the entries using the London Art Map

Wednesday, 12 October 2011


Located at 799 Waterloo St. this feature on London's Tree Trunk Tour is entitled 'Squirreltopia!' the artwork is directly across from St George's Public School. It is in front of a regular residence, not a business or charity.

Squirreltopia is a whimsical take on what would make the ideal residence for our little, furry, tree dwelling friends. It is styled as a castle with two small lower towers, and one upper turret. Some windows are carved in relief, others are actually holes bored all the way through the piece.

Sitting off to the side, and slightly taller that the rest of the piece is an actual squirrel nesting box. It was part of the original design and construction, as can be seen on the London Tourism Tree Trunk Tour Map (#13) The front of the tree also has a squirrel carved in relief on the upper half, which can be seen in the top photo on this page.

The signature on the piece is a little different from most of the others on the tour. It is still a Robbin Wenzoski creation, with the connected RW as the signature, not the 'RaW art' logo that appears on other works. It is also dated 2006, so it likely pre-dates his decision to use the more frequently seen 'RaW art' version. There is also a stamp with name a phone number below the title that I had not seen on any of the other pieces. The title is often incorporated into the overall carving design on later works, on this trunk, it's a bit of an afterthought.

Being an older work, it certainly opens up the possibility of age related condition issues, and they do appear to be a problem in the area just below the signature. There are insect bore holes, and evidence of rot at the base of the tree. Anywhere sealed with the varnish looks like it is in good condition, but much of the trunk is unprotected.

As a last note, the owner of the house draped Christmas lights over this piece, and never removed them. The picture was taken in October, and it looks kind of sad this way. Good artwork deserves more respect.

Return to the Tree Trunk Tour Overview Page
Check out all the entries using the London Art Map

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Come Together and Grow

Located at the corner of Colborne St. and Piccadilly St. is the trunk carving 'Come Together and Grow' it stands in front of the Colborne St. United Church, just slightly north of the front facade. The carving is just out of the right hand edge of the church picture on their website.

The title is carved into the middle of the trunk, bordered by a naturally flowing frame. There is a sealing coat over the carved areas of the tree, bu no paint colours.

Directly below the title frame is a three part image of hands clasping. Teh toop 2 hands are reminiscent of the Sistine Chapel ceiling by Michelangelo. The 'hand of God' on the trunk is reversed top to bottom from the original however. The second pair appear to be joined in friendship. The third pair is clasped together, as sometimes picture in prayer. The rich colour variations in the wood show well, but the hands are a little awkwardly formed.

The other theme in the piece besides hands, is hearts. Just above the title plaque is a heart, it produces 2 lines of hearts that wrap around the sculpture and flow skyward. The hearts are all a little different, and produce a nice effect in drawing the eyes upward. This closeup (as always, click to enlarge) shows the natural grain of the wood, as well as the texture created by the finishing tools on the surface.

The hearts criss-cross and then flow upward. Since the top of the trunk has been fully worked away, the hearts are less obviously a tree trunk sculpture. They stand out in silhouette in the early morning light, and might convey the idea of love flowing out into the world.

Directly in front of the hearts crossing at the top of the trunk is this torch.

Its is the most intricately carved part of the trunk, and looks like it is in perfect condition despite having a few winters under its belt. I would assume it represents the church's slogan, which is
"Uniting in Lighting the Way"

The trunk is signed, and dated 2008. This, is Robbin Wenzoski's signature, using the Raw Art logo he adopted. This trunk is one with very few condition issues, and it appears that the sealing against weather and parasites has worked well.

Return to the Tree Trunk Tour Overview Page
Check out all the entries using the London Art Map