Notes from the Field Station: Dan Ladd Sculpture Proposed for MacLeish

22 Feb

Dan Ladd’s work is currently on display in the Lyman Plant House Conservatory Gallery. His exhibit “Shaping Plants: Fruits, Shoots, and Roots- Collaborations with Nature” is open to the public daily from 8:30 am – 4:00 pm daily, and ends this Friday February 24th.

Currently, field station manger Reid Bertone-Johnson is working with local artist Dan Ladd on the possible installation of “living sculptures” at the MacLeish Field Station. Ladd’s work focuses on “botanical architecture and tree sculpture,” including the intricate sculpture of gourds with ceramic molds and the precise art of shaping trees through grafting, also referred to as arborsculpture.

In his youth, Ladd was intrigued by acts of tree self-grafting and the growth of trees around manmade objects such as fences and idle farm equipment. In 1977 he began experimenting with glass, metal, and ceramic inclusions in trees. Since then, Ladd has incorporated a diverse variety of objects into trees, such as teacups, bicycle wheels, and headstones. Ladd uses detailed molds to guide roots into shapes, such as stairs, and contort hard-shelled Lagenaria gourds into impeccable miniature sculptures. Additionally, Ladd has been commissioned by multiple public landscapes, such as DeCordova and Dana Museum and Sculpture Park (Lincoln, MA) and Frank Curto Park (Pittsburg, PA), to install unique grafted tree sculpture.

Proposed designs for the Field Station include the grafting of multiple trees into arches over a single large bolder (unearthed by excavation) and the incorporation of metal signage related to the Living Building into tree trunks. Both designs will use vegetation native to the field station. This installation would strengthen and highlight ties between the field station and the fine arts, adding a living sculpture to the already impressive collections of the Smith College Museum of Art.

In addition to his sculptures, Ladd is interested in serving as a resource for horticulture classes, architecture studios, landscape studies classes, and installation art classes, further reinforcing connections between the arts and sciences. Ladd would also train students in the pruning techniques necessary for maintaining the pieces.

Not only would these pieces serve as an incredible resource for the college, but Ladd’s sculptures will also attract positive attention to the field station and help to communicate the greater goals of the Living Building Challenge.

-Jessa Finch (’12)

CEEDS MacLeish Intern

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