Carved from a 283-year-old maple tree toppled by hurricane-force winds off Lake Michigan in 2011, the totemic bird sculptures in this steel-boxed assemblage “perpetuate the vitality” of that tree and sound a warning call as well, says artist Margot McMahon. The message: climate change can impact both trees and wildlife, which are ecologically linked.
“If so many stressed trees are dying due to climate change, how can we maintain the ecosystem of these trees in our city’s parks? Insects, nesting and migrating birds and burrowing squirrels need the decaying trees to find safe haven. If the trees are taken down, there are less insects to feed from, less branches for rest and more wind to navigate. My birds are a reminder to reduce our carbon footprint and give the earth a chance to heal.”
A lifelong environmentalist, Margot McMahon focuses on organic representations of human, plant and animal forms, working in bronze, Cor-Ten steel, aluminum, granite and wood. In 2014 she participated in the Chicago Tree Project, a collaboration between Chicago Sculpture International and the Chicago Park District, in which sick and dying trees were transformed into public art. McMahon has taught sculpture and drawing at the School of the Art Institute, DePaul University and Yale University, and her sculptures have been collected by the Smithsonian Institution, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago History Museum and Yale University.