Friday, September 24, 2010

Turning Lemons Into Lemonade

HOWARD PROSNITZ/STAFF PHOTOS. Teaneck sculptor Anthony Santella sculpted a Red-tailed hawk out of a tree stump during the Teaneck Creek Conservancy’s EcoFair over the weekend.This sculpted turtle is an example of what Santella’s work looks like when completed. On Sunday, Oct. 24, the Grange Road resident sculpted a Red-tailed hawk from the tree stump at the Teaneck Creek Conservancy. A previously sculpted turtle from another part of the stump is almost complete. Photo courtesy:

It always wondrous when something magical is created out of what would normally be left to go to waste. When trees are felled for whatever reason there is usually a stump left. The stump is usually either pulled up or left in place to eventually return to nature.

A Teaneck, NJ sculptor has found a unique way to utilize the stumps and add a bit of whimsy to the local park.

The sculptor’s outdoor workshop work was part of the TCC’s first EcoArt Day, which included crafts vendors, music, storytelling and guided tours of the park.

"The day was meant to bring the community to the Creek so residents throughout the area could sample the excellent programs that we offer," said TCC Executive Director Devery Volpe.

Santella, a 1995 Teaneck High School graduate, is a frequent visitor to the park and walker of its trails. He noted that he reached out to Volpe with the proposal to create the permanent outdoor sculptures.

"When the locust tree came down in the storm, I began eyeing it, which I do with wood in general, as a potential project," Santella said.

Although he took a few life-sculpting courses at the Art Students League in New York, Santella is largely self-taught as a painter and sculptor.

Growing up on Queen Anne Road, he had always been involved in art and was a painter for many years before becoming involved with sculpting six years ago.

Photo courtesy:

However, art is Santella’s avocation. He earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science from NYU and a Ph.D. from Rutgers, writing his dissertation on computer visualization theory. He works in image processing and visualization at Sloan Kettering Institute in New York.

"But I have always had art in the background since I was a kid. I was constantly drawing in middle school and I never gave it up," he said.

As a sculptor, Santella has worked exclusively with wood.

"Wood is a direct form of sculpture. The materials are very simple. It is just you and a block of wood," he said.

Sculpting in the woods of the TCC was a new experience, Santella said, noting that he has sometimes worked in his backyard or driveway. "But working under trees is very different. It is a relaxing environment to work in, which is something different for me."

The turtle and the Red-tailed hawk are located near the entrance to the park will become a permanent exhibit. While most of his studio work is sealed in oil or polyurethane, Santella said that the two sculptures will be left in natural state, turning grey, as wood does when it weathers.

"What I want people to get out of this project more than anything else is the idea of living in harmony with nature and using available materials in a respectful way," Santella said. "It is sustainable art in that it has no impact on the environment. It is a zero emission project. It is just me swinging a chisel."


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