Tree of Life

The Tree of Life in situ.

We are All Connected

This is the story of my latest public sculpture commission for Publix Greenwise Market in Fort Lauderdale, entitled, The Tree of Life. It’s the largest sculpture I’ve ever undertaken, 36 ft tall by 16 ft wide, done in quarter inch thick aluminum. The design process progressed from a rough sketch on paper, to a Photoshop illustration, to a CAD file. It was ultimately water jet cut from 9 sheets of aluminum,  each 4 feet wide by 12 ft long, weighing over 1500 lbs. in total.

The left over aluminum or “drops” that remained after the roots and branches were cut out.

The sculpture represents the interconnectedness of living things. The roots spread deep into the earth, thereby nourishing the branches reaching into the sky.

Tree of Life is attached to an outside wall of Publix Greenwise Market and needed a bracket attachment system. To accomplish this I designed 5in. long U-shaped aluminum brackets that were welded on the back of the limbs and roots. Twenty-five brackets for the tree and twenty-five to support the roots. The tree is suspended 5 inches from the wall to create interesting shadows throughout the day as the sun moves across the sky

During the production phase, clearing out a space large enough so the whole sculpture could be laid out on the floor of the studio was a challenge. Once all the branches were in place, I started using a TIG  welder to join the pieces together. It was rather slow and tedious and I decided to try a spool gun on my MIG welder for the first time, and it worked like a charm. The spool gun made the welding go much faster – there was a lot of welding to be done. The sculpture was designed so all the welds were on the back, and on the front we see a series of clean overlapping branches that define the tree and roots beautifully with subtle depth.

The pieces laid out on the floor of the studio stretching 36′ long

The surface was textured with a bark-like pattern using a flap disc on an angle grinder. The effect was tedious to apply as it had to be done by hand while working awkwardly on the floor.

The final step was getting it loaded up, transporting it to the site, and getting it installed. I built an “A” frame wood cradle to hold the 9 pieces of the sculpture on the trailer. Arriving in Ft Lauderdale, the crew unloaded the pieces, staged them on the sidewalk, and began the installation process that took 2 days to complete.


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