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Chainsaw sculptures

Updated on November 22, 2011

Here's looking at ya!

Special blades may be used to get very fine detail with a chainsaw.  Sculpture by Jeff Klatt.
Special blades may be used to get very fine detail with a chainsaw. Sculpture by Jeff Klatt. | Source

Chainsaw art since the beginning.

Before there were chainsaws there was art. Shortly after chainsaws were invented, we got chainsaw art. One of the founders and elder statesmen of this art is a man by the name of Ray Murphy. Since 1952 he has created close to 60,000 pieces of art with his chainsaw. in the 1960s and 1970s, many other artists took to the chainsaw. Then in the 1980s things really began to take off. Prestigious competitions drew contestants from both the West and East Coast of the United States to participate and demonstrate their skill. Additionally, the first books and magazines published dedicated to chainsaw art came out in the 1980s.

While many readers may only be familiar with chainsaw art as a sculptural form, it is considered by many to be a performance art. In the 1990s a booking company developed to promote chainsaw art as a performance art. Many chainsaw artists, nurtured by these factors left their mark on the world, and continue to do so today. The art-form enjoys considerable popularity today. There is school for chainsaw artists in Japan, the chainsaw artist's World Cup was held in Germany in 2010 (and won by an American) and there are competitions in the United States of America and abroad. Additionally chainsaw art is a burgeoning type of outsider or folk art.

Chainsaw Art and Sculptures

The mighty Thor.  Artist unknown.
The mighty Thor. Artist unknown. | Source
3rd Place Pro Division, Mark Colp
3rd Place Pro Division, Mark Colp | Source
First Place Sculpture by Ryan Anderson
First Place Sculpture by Ryan Anderson | Source
Many people like to carve bears.  (Artist unknown).
Many people like to carve bears. (Artist unknown). | Source
2nd Place Pro Division 2009 Steve Higgins
2nd Place Pro Division 2009 Steve Higgins | Source
This statue in Sam Benn Park (Aberdeen, Washington) is by Louis Benanto, Jr., who I believe is mainly a chainsaw sculptor. Dated 1974.
This statue in Sam Benn Park (Aberdeen, Washington) is by Louis Benanto, Jr., who I believe is mainly a chainsaw sculptor. Dated 1974. | Source
Close up of previous photo.
Close up of previous photo. | Source
View Island, artist unknown.
View Island, artist unknown. | Source
Source
Chain Saw Carved Bear in Detroit Lakes Minnesota; artist unknown.
Chain Saw Carved Bear in Detroit Lakes Minnesota; artist unknown. | Source
Abandoned statue (chainsaw sculpture) in a vacant lot in Raymond, Washington.  (Artist unknown).
Abandoned statue (chainsaw sculpture) in a vacant lot in Raymond, Washington. (Artist unknown). | Source
The Fall of Icarus, by Sebastian Seiffert
The Fall of Icarus, by Sebastian Seiffert | Source

A photo is worth a 1000 words.

Chainsaw artists have to work with an uncarved part of a tree. Often the existing tree stump which they carve is a distinct shape. A good chainsaw artist is inspired by the shape. He or she has to make split second decisions about spatial relations and carve everything up just so. The slightest mistake and the piece is ruined. Worse still, the chainsaw is a dangerous tool and may hurt the wielder if he is not careful.

Once the sculpture is complete it may be shellacked or painted. If it is outside this will help it to weather the environment. Some sculptures are in a permanent location as they are carved into a tree trunk whose roots are still in the ground. Other sculptures are movable. Some can be quite small. Ray Murphy has taken to using his chainsaw on toothpicks and pencils. As with any other art form its expression is limited only by the imagination of the artist.

I've collected for you some of the best chainsaw art on the web. If you like these images, you may want to search for more. One of the best things I like about chainsaw art is finding it while I am out and about. You might see a sculpture someone's backyard, in front of a house or business, or even out in an open field. There's something irresistible about chainsaw art.

About the photos

As I say, there are literally hundreds of these photos on the web. I have included the URL of the sites where you can find the photo. Some of the sites are travelogues, some personal blogs not related to chainsaw art; and some are dedicated to individual artists or to the world of chainsaw art. These pictures represent some of the best chainsaw sculpture that is out there. Many of them are slowly decaying to the elements - though they don't get photographed so often! However, this is one of the many beautiful aspects of this art form; to remind us of impermanence.

When I first saw the painted ones I thought it was kinda cheating; but now they have grown on me. They have a beauty in their own right, as opposed to the natural and raw beauty of the ones that are unpainted. It definitely takes a skilled hand to make any of the sculptures here.

Please enjoy the photos!

Again, I hope you enjoy these photos as much as I do. For your added enjoyment, I have curated a video at the bottom of this article. It shows another aspect of the art form. In it Brian Ruth masterfully carves a tree trunk into an eagle. There is a good chance that he is using one of the specialty blades or other tools developed for the sport. But have no doubt, it is still a deadly device that he is operating which turns a stump into a sculpture. One of the things I like about this video is the way that it depicts the action and really helps give you a feel for what it would be like to be there in person. I hope you have the time to watch it!

Chainsaw art.

Though I enjoy stumbling across chainsaw art, I've never gotten a chance to see a chainsaw artist in action (other than in a video). Doing the research for this article I realized how exciting it would be to see a chainsaw artist in action. Many of the competitions that are held are timed, so that participants only have an half an hour or an hour to make their sculpture. It really is a fast and furious art-form, with beautiful results! My favorite video of it is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a0Uekn8Z-BQ where a master carves an eagle from a tree stump. Go check it out!

You and chainsaw art.

What is your relation to chainsaw art?

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    • profile image

      JANICE G BUSSER 

      2 years ago

      I have a benanto ..it is a bust of an indian chief

    working

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