What I knew before arriving at the home of Emilie Brzezinski was just that she works with trees; she works with, carves into, and chops up whole trees. Walking down the narrow, steep, manmade staircase to her studio I was in awe of the space that she and her husband had built to create and store her incredible creations. Brzezinski’s studio is the size of an entire house; only instead of people occupying it, her 10-foot tall masterpieces dwell with these walls.
Brzezinski has always been inspired by nature. She started her career working with a variety of media, plastics, latex and wood fiber, but, since the late 1970s, she has been working exclusively with wood.
We started our studio tour with a piece that just was recently removed from her show at the Kreeger Museum, an exit that took much coordination and planning to lift the three tree trunks off museum grounds. The Lure of the Forest was on view at the Kreeger from September 16-December 27, 2014. The piece we looked at, Lament, took slightly longer to get back since it needed to be air lifted out of the museum with a crane. She explained her love for the piece and that using the chainsaw to cut into the wood allowed her to express herself by leaving an imprint of herself in nature. For Brzezinski, wood is alive, it has a history and a story—this is what she is most interested in sharing.
A short walk away is Brzezinski’s storage facility, a separate structure from her studio, where she keeps work that is finished but not currently out on display. In this small building, in between two of her large trunks, is a small table. The table is small in diameter but certainly not in thickness or weight since it’s created entirely out of one tree trunk. She says that this was the piece she made “to prove herself.” It was intended to be shared with David Nash, the British sculptor best known for his large-scale works in wood, to demonstrate that she had the skills to create a table out of one tree trunk. Unfortunately, Nash never saw the piece.
Brzezinski certainly has nothing to prove. Her skill shows through so powerfully in the detail of her chipping, sawing and carving of nature’s sturdiest beings. A recent project, which empowered Brzezinski, was a collaboration with Turkish photographer Bulent Kilic whose photo she saw in the New York Times. The photo struck Brzezinski because it’s an image of a crowd of people, where not one was smiling. From this collaboration, Ukraine Trunk was made. The trunk, which started-off as her usual carving, shifted to having the actual photo blown up and placed inside the trunk. This project will serve as a model for her next sequence of work combining photography with wood to capture a child’s “moment in time.”
Having been to countless studios, fairs and art shows, there has never really been any quite like this visit. Brzezinski’s work is breathtaking but her passion and love of creating “art for art sake,” as she puts it, is infectious and inspiring.
You can find more information about Emilie Brzezinski, her work and purchase her catalog at: www.thelureoftheforest.com
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