American Chestnut Leaf Sculpture

American Chestnut Leaf Sculpture

Ecological leaf sculptures are a way to engage people in nature

Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve, Princeton, New Jersey | 13 May 2020 – 18 October 2020

On May 13, 2020 eight 100% native American Chestnut saplings were planted for Friends of Princeton Open Space at Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve in Princeton, New Jersey within its 18-acre deer exclosure fence. On the other side of the fence from the chestnuts, I created a leaf sculpture on the forest floor, using river stone to simulate the leaves of the American Chestnut (Castanea dentata). The five leaves are oblong lanceolate with coarsely serrated edges, one leaf blade per stalk. The design of the American Chestnut Leaf Sculpture is based on a watercolor painting I created to imagine how the leaves would be situated. The leaf sculpture was assembled, drawing attention to the beauty of the restoration project. The restoration of the American Chestnut to our eastern woodlands is a reminder that there is hope and renewal for the natural world. My ambition is to arouse awareness, and to re-envision ecological relationships and new possibilities for co-existence and sustainability. We must think in terms of connectivity; the trees benefit us but how can we benefit the trees? The prototype for my collaboration with Friends of Princeton Open Space began in 2016. For many years, I walked the trails of the Bunker Hill Environmental Center at Graeber Woods Preserve in Franklin Township, New Jersey. I love to observe wildlife and envisioned how an art project could draw attention to the importance of native trees. I created eleven “Ecological Leaf Sculptures” situated beneath the trees they represent, outlined with local river stone, basalt, glacial boulder, diabase, goose egg stone and shale. The leaf sculptures are interwoven within the understory of the forest alongside 96 acres of trails that meander through forest, meadow, stream and marsh.

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