The following summer I decided to work again with available materials. Looking closely at the clumping birch tree on the beach with its multiple trunks, I noticed that driftwood had gotten caught in its base, thrown there by winter storms. This observation inspired me to make a piece that addressed things that get caught in trees. Starting with stripped alder branches I tried to make an abstract piece that wound its way around the massive trunks. Finding this uninteresting I tore it apart and wedged an old white wooden kitchen chair upside down in the crook of the tree. This didn’t hold much interest either, so, re-using the stripped alder branches I constructed the outline of a 16’ canoe and wedged that into the tree, but that too just looked awkward.
Finally I realized that kites get caught in trees. The resulting kite was made with pine cross bars and horizontal strips of birch bark. The piece was massive, and very heavy. It’s surprising how thick and demanding a material birch bark is. Not only is it heavy, its also multi-layered, oily, and always wants to spring back to the curved trunk from which it grew. Struggling to keep it flat and adhere it to adjacent strips, I learned that very few adhesives will stick to it. I found that construction adhesive worked fine. Trailing from the point at the bottom I made a double streamer also from birch bark. At first I wanted to tack the kite firmly to the trunk of the tree, like a static artwork, but Charles convinced me to let it float freely from one of the branches.
This was easier said than done. The best available branch was well above our reach, even with a ladder. In the end Charles improvised a weight with a string attached to it. After many futile throws he managed to get the weight and string over the branch. We secured the kite to the string where it whipped excitedly in the wind.
There’s something magical about kites. Maybe it’s that they make the invisible forces of nature, in this case the wind, visible. Then again maybe it’s that their playful, unscripted flitting reminds us of what it means to be carefree, to go where the wind and weather dictate, without concern for the future. In any case, I consider Birch Kite to be one of my more successful pieces to interact with the forces of nature.