GAMBIER — In this day of plastics and other synthetic materials, wood maintains its allure, and on Tuesday, community members had the opportunity to learn more about its importance during Kenyon College’s “Working in Wood” forum.
Guided by moderator Judy Sacks, a trio of wood devotees, Pamela Whitney Gray, Barry Gunderson and Gene Schnebly, talked about different historical, social and cultural aspects of wood.
Schnebly, a woodcarver, has created pull-toys as well as three-dimensional tableaux of farm wagons being pulled by horses or mules. The tableaux features miniature figures that have working parts. He said he carved the wagons in tribute to his grandfather.
“Granddad was a carpenter,” said Schnebly, “and I helped him build barns. I started making pegs when I was just a kid. Granddad raised me and we were really close. We don’t have any pictures, so I carved the wagons as a way to remember how things were and what we did together.”
Schnebly works with quaking aspen, oak and walnut. He discussed the importance of choosing the right type of wood for a particular part of a project and spoke about various wood-working implements.
Kenyon Professor of Art Gunderson, a sculptor whose grandfather was a carpenter, said he was inspired to work in wood during frequent trips from Ohio to visit family in Minnesota.
“Seeing that rural countryside all the time,” he said, “in all seasons, it was just gorgeous. And my art hero is Grant Wood, whose farm scenes are knock-out gorgeous. I like the nostalgia of his work. ... My work is all about nostalgia. And barns have great structure and form.”
Gunderson said he likes working with wood because it is malleable and manipulable. “I can get any shape I want out of wood,” he said. The wood sculptures he brought to the discussion are part of a larger “Dirt Series” celebrating small family farms and their architecture.