A work in progress. This installation will consist of 50 hanging axe handles. Each handle has been hand-carved using a combination of hatchet, saw, knife, and sandpaper. Each finished handle holds within it hours of meditative effort in which the calming comfort of repetitive action culminates in a perfectly smooth and beautiful object. Within this beauty lies a certain violence, as the elegant curves of the handle serve only one purpose: to swing. Bereft of their heads, the axe handles pose no threat to the trees from which they are born. If trees are the supreme symbol of nature, then the axe is the antithesis of the tree, and in turn the antithesis of nature. Yet the axe is also a modern symbol of the outdoorsman. Due to its long history as the foremost tool in the clearing of American land, it is symbolically on par with the cut stump. In Ravages of the Axe: The Meaning of the Tree Stump in Nineteenth Century American Art, Nikolai Cikozsky Jr. states:
"The urgent need to clear land for immediate cultivation and habitation vastly outweighed considerations of beauty and made destruction of forests inevitable. The urgency was so great, and the obstacles so many, that Americans looked upon trees as their enemies, took positive pleasure in destroying them, and were not content until they had denuded the land. "
This means, then, that in American landscape painting, the cut stump is a symbol of progress and human reslience over nature. It follows that the axe also held this symbolic weight. Whereas our societal perceptions of the cut stump have generally shifted – a clear-cut forest is mainly regarded negatively – the axe or hatchet remains a symbol of outdoorsmanship . My work explores outdoorsmanship’s place in modern America as I attempt to deconstruct and understand the mindset of the modern outdoorsman, both within myself and in American society.