David Groth

 Creating Abstract Form in Wood

All the wood I’ve collected for carving over the last thirty-five years has been reclaimed, and the great majority has come from the beaches near my home. Driving on the beach isn’t without its hazards. The sand and salt are very abrasive and corrosive on vehicles and chain saws. But the greatest risk is loosing your truck when you hit a sinkhole and find the tires sunk up to the axles with the tide coming in and only a few feet and minutes away from washing the vehicle down under the sand. I’ve had this exciting experience a couple times and just in the nick of time saved my truck from the ocean’s powerful forces. Personally these risks are outweighed by the prospect of reclaiming a tree washed up on the beach before it deteriorates in a few years. I load the myrtlewood log sections, weighing up to 3000 pounds each, onto my truck with an electric winch that roles along a steel I-beam. I usually collect my year’s supply of carving materials during the last three weeks of February. The rivers have flooded and washed a fresh supply of trees out to the ocean and storms have driven the logs up onto beaches.

I've explored free standing and wall sculpture as well as sculpted tables and bowls throughout the last thirty-five years of carving wood. The foremost element I’ve always kept in mind and the common ground shared by all these expressions in wood is my attention to form and line.  I sculpt in myrtlewood that has washed up along the Pacific Northwest beaches.  The journey begins by reclaiming timbers between storms and after rivers have flooded.  Next, working intuitively I allow the form to evolve as I carve.  When a piece starts growing I grow with it, I have no preconceptions…it is part of a stream.  By working in this way each new sculpture becomes an act of discovery.  I find this intuitive approach both challenging and rewarding because it requires complete focus on the creative process unfolding at hand.  The resulting artwork reveals every step of this personal journey and leads to insights my intellect wouldn’t visualize.  Currently I finish surfaces with a concave shaped chisel to emphasize movement and energy in the overall sculpture.  Instilling personal vision and exploring form is uppermost in my mind throughout the transformation from reclaimed tree to finished carving.

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I carve each sculpture by chain saw while the wood is still in its green state.  After roughing out the form it is then kiln dried for between three and five weeks, depending on its size and thickness. When the sculpture is completely dried I refine the shapes with a die grinder and finish its surfaces with a chisel. The sculpture’s surface is coated with a mixture of beeswax, boiled linseed oil, and polyurethane. The result is a sculpture that looks and feels like wood.