Archive for Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Interest increases in city’s tree sculptures

October 11, 2006

Tonganoxie is known for its scenic hills, quaint downtown and spacious parks.

Now there seems to be another type of attraction cropping up on Tonganoxie's horizon -- chainsaw tree sculptures.

Friday morning, Lawrence residents Mike and Kitty Johnson and David and Gunda Hiebert stopped by Tonganoxie to check out Russell Ehart's chainsaw sculptures.

The couples, who like to take day trips from Lawrence, had seen recent newspaper stories about Ehart's newest Tonganoxie chainsaw sculpture, a nearly life-size statue of Elvis Presley.

After stopping downtown to learn where the sculptures are, the couples visited Bichelmeyer's Steakhouse where they saw Ehart's first Tonganoxie sculpture -- a Native American representing Chief Tonganoxie. Chief Tonganoxie was a Delaware Indian who oversaw a stopping place for travelers in the early 1800s. Ehart carved that statue from the trunk of a tree destroyed by Tonganoxie's May 11, 2000, tornado.

The Hieberts already were familiar with the concept of chainsaw sculptures.

They have one of their own. It's a Buddha, at 1633 University Drive, Lawrence.

The Hieberts commissioned a Kansas University graduate sculpture student to carve a locust tree, which was dying.

"It would have cost $1,000 to get the stump removed," David Hiebert said.

"To commission the carving was a little more than that."

And, the couple's sculpture ties in with a work of art at KU. They asked that the statue be like one of a Buddha at Spencer Art Gallery.

Hiebert said Clarke Wescoe, former KU chancellor, gave the statue to the museum.

The idea of touring the county's chainsaw sculptures is not new.

In fact, just a few days before the Lawrence couples visited Tonganoxie, Paula Bollinger of Tonganoxie Recreation Commission, expressed an interest in putting together a driving tour to point out carvings in the area.

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