The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Art project keeps two trees green during fall season

The leaves are changing colors to vibrant oranges, reds and browns.  It is that time of year. The leaves then fall and trees become more and more bare, but if someone were to walk past the Water Street side of the Haas Fine Arts building, they would find two trees that look completely out of the ordinary this fall.

Mathias Hughey, a senior, created a sculpture on two trees made of empty soda bottles, a steel frame, wood base, wood glue and steel wire.

“I’m hoping that it at least gives people a second to stop and think about something that wouldn’t normally have crossed their mind,” Hughey said.

Hughey is a sculpture and creative writing major. He said he started thinking about the project when he was in an art history class. He came up with the idea of working with trees and thought of putting plastic on them.

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Hughey said he estimates there are around 4,500 empty soda bottles on the trees. Veolia, a waste management company located in Eau Claire, donated the bottles to the project.

The project was funded by the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs. According to their website, ORSP coordinates and administers a variety of internally funded research and professional development programs. Hughey said he slowly started the project in June, but picked up his pace in July when he actually received the funds from the program.

Jason Lanka, assistant professor of sculpture, was Hughey’s faculty advisor on the project.

“My job is to provide technical help, but then also conceptual development … it is his work, his ideas, (I am) just there to help develop those ideas.”

Lanka said the sculpture is trying to convey a moment when you realize how many bottles there are.

“It’s a play on just our lip service that we play towards environmentalism, but our blatant tendency to continue to consume at an unsustainable rate,” he said.

Lanka said the forms in the trees are playful and fun, but he feels guilty after looking at them for too long. The contradiction between the two is the success of the work to him.

Hughey does not have a goal for something the viewer should see.  He said he does not want to guide the viewer in the interpretation.

Senior Heather Brooks is a graphic design major. Walking past the sculptures twice a day, she said they tend to blend in from afar, but always surprise her when she gets closer.

“The leafy green bottles used for the tops of the trees make me believe there is a deeper meaning in the use of the materials as well as their position,” she said. “I almost instantly think of recycling initiatives as well as art as an avenue for recycling.”

The sculpture is completed and located on either side of the bus stop on Water Street outside of Haas for viewers to form their own opinions of the work.

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Art project keeps two trees green during fall season