Sculptor Adds Urban Wood to Her Palette

Chicago-area artist Margot McMahon’s works have been exhibited far and wide. Her sculptures can be found among private collections around the globe as well as the Smithsonian, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago Historical Society, Chicago Botanical Gardens, and Yale University to name a few.

According to her website, McMahon typically models in clay then casts in metal or concrete, welds in steel and carves in stone. But she also has had opportunity to use urban wood as her medium. Indeed, the carvings adorning this post utilized a 300-year-old maple tree that was downed in a 2011 wind storm.

Responding to an email seeking more information about the tree, McMahon replied, “The maple was in our backyard and on Lake Michigan a sailboat measured 103 mph wind (gusts). The wind came across Wisconsin and traveled along the bird flyway. It hit The Garfield Park Conservatory and broke every rooftop window. I was at an environmental meeting at the Oak Park Library when I saw the sky go dark and suggested we leave our meeting early. I texted the family to stay where they were and wait out the storm.”

McMahon said she had the tree cut into carvable sizes. Some of the log sections were 3 to 4 feet in diameter. “I found carving a 300-year-old tree meaningful,” she said.

McMahon’s local urban wood connections include serving on the Outdoor Committee of Chicago Sculpture International. CSI collaborates with the Chicago Park District on the The Chicago Tree Project to give “sick and dying trees a second life as a work of vibrant public art.” Her contributions to the Tree Project includes Perch – Preen, a dying ash tree turned artwork in Hale Park.

Learn more about Margot McMahon.

See related article about 2019 Chicago Tree Project.