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By Janet Pihlblad, Artist and Contributor

The second annual exhibit of site-specific works in Leakin Park/Gwynne Falls Trails opened on May 20th.  Art-lovers & families hike along these beautiful trails to discover works of art made from natural materials. The trails are like an untouched wilderness, and it’s hard to believe you are within Baltimore city limits.

Last year, when I was first invited to make a piece in Leakin Park, I had been working on a thematic series of portraits: people historically responsible for changing the course of human thought regarding our relationship with nature. These were not typical portraits, being made by burning images into leaves using a digital laser (leaf-portrait here is of Carl Linnaeus).

Photograph by Janet Pihlblad

So, I had portraits in mind when I found out about the exhibit along the trails. Using dead wood which I found in the woods, and gravity as the only binding method, I made a giant drawing of Henry David Thoreau’s face.

Starting with old photographs of the subject, I figured out appropriate cross-contours, drew these on the photo, enlarged them with the help of a projector, then transfered the image to the ground, on site. After lots of hunting for sticks, I sorted out wood which matched the contours of my drawing as closely as possible, and put them painstakingly into place.

Photograph by Janet Pihlblad

Photograph by Mark Lyons

Photograph by Janet Pihlblad

Thoreau’s face was very satisfying to work on, so this year, I made the profile of John Muir. He had that wonderful beard and wavy hair, which was very fun to recreate with some old dead brush-wood and twisting spiral vines.

Photograph by Janet Pihlblad

Photograph by Mark Lyons

Photograph by Janet Pihlblad

I love the possibility that people who are not already familiar with Thoreau or Muir will be curious enough to look them up and perhaps read their works, after seeing these sculptures. Next year I may do a portrait of Rachel Carson.

Photograph by Jillian Storm

For more on Leakin Park/Gwynne Falls Trails Exhibit go here.

To see more of Janet’s work visit her website.

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