River Art Design

Here is a draft design for a piece of riverside art, to be placed on public land near the Napa River in the City of Napa.  The project is financially supported by a grant from Arts Council Napa Valley, with additional labor donated by the artist and by Friends of the Napa River.

The design is illustrated by a wooden model shown in the first photo.  The basic idea is first to flatten a log on two opposing faces, making a kind of bench;  and then to cut the whole into angled segments and reassemble them into what you might call a segmented serpentine bench.  The bench is designed to mimic gently the shape of the land surface where it is placed;  the heights of individual segments vary, as do the angles between the segments in plan view.

There will be willows or other native plants at various locations on the uphill side and the ends, incorporating the installation into the natural scene.

The piece is conceived as a conscious response to the complex river environment, of which the log is a kind of emblem.  The log should look like something that belongs there.  At the same time, however, the artist’s interventions are unmistakable – the flat surfaces of varying height, and the angled joints between segments.  These elements remind us that humans are active in the watershed, for good or ill.

This bench should be made out of a single log.  The second photo shows a locally salvaged redwood log – it’s the one marked with blue paint – that is about 30 inches in diameter and 16 feet long.  The log is available for the project thanks to the good offices of the Napa County Flood District, and to the generosity of Pacific Tree Care in Calistoga for donating the log.

The artist’s intention is to construct the piece in such manner that natural processes of decay are minimized.  The candidate log is redwood, which has very decay resistant heartwood, and the finished piece will be all heartwood except for a bit on the rounded sides.  In addition, it will be important to install the piece in a manner that discourages water from puddling on or around it, while securely pinning the segments together.  To discourage the log segments from splitting open on the top or sides, each segment will have a relief cut on the bottom face running with the grain.

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