Rugby included in world art project
Eight area blacksmiths and apprentices worked through a steamy July 28 at Prairie Village Museum to craft an addition to a Swiss art project traveling the world.
The blacksmiths pounded on 17 pieces of half-inch steel to make a turtle to place on the end of a tree trunk or “bloch” that was being carved, painted, nailed and more during its North American tour, which went through North Dakota.
About 200 people gathered at the museum that evening to meet the artists, observe the massive tree trunk and listen to music, including North Dakota folk star Chuck Suchy.
“It’s about communication and part mediation,” said Johannes Hedinger, one of the two Swiss artists. “It’s also about bring together different cultures. It’s an open art piece. We don’t know where it’s going physically, ideologically.”
North Dakota state folklorist Troyd Geist was in charge of setting up the tour, which hit Fargo, small towns and the Turtle Mountains. The idea for adding the image of a turtle as a representation of North America (the artists are visiting each continent) came from the Ojibwa Indian legend of the Creation of Turtle Island.
“The gist is the world was covered in water and a tree fell into a hole in the sky down to earth,” Geist said. “What happens is a muskrat went down to the bottom, pulled mud up and was put on the back of a giant turtle.”
Other versions tell of a sky woman being pulled up by the turtle.
“Europe had its chance, Asia had their chance, now it’s our turn with the tree,” Geist said. “We wanted everything to relate to one another, not only aesthetically, but in meaning.”
Other North Dakota art on the trunk included a painting of a western meadowlark, the state bird. A flute inspired by songbirds was carved from the trunk’s wood and placed in a shelf of the trunk.
Minot woodworker John Martinson, an instructor with the North Dakota Council on the Arts’ traditional arts apprentice program, was mailed wood from the trunk a few months earlier. He carved out a handful of arrows, which he and the two artists shot into the trunk in front of the museum visitors.
“It was a little tougher to work with because it’s lighter than what I’m used to,” said Martinson, who carved the arrows in North Dakota Hidatsa style, adding feathers. “It’s very interesting I was picked. It’s an honor.”
Maddock’s Dean Hagen led eight blacksmiths and apprentices from around the state. Hagen was honored to be a part of the team of artists in the only state visited by the bloch, save a stop in Moorhead, Minn.
“When I looked at the bloch, I was impressed with all the work on it,” Hagen said. “We were kind of curious what we could actually do to it.”
Elva Berg, 14, of Cavalier, was working on her first project as a young blacksmith.
“It’s great to know I can be a part of something, even if it was just on a national level,” she said. “I look at the beautiful detailed work on that trunk and to know our mark is gonna be on that is just amazing.”
All attendees could leave their mark with written notes, which were placed in an opening of the trunk and sealed shut.
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