Unusually Clever People

Oak Gall Art

Oak_galls I met artist Chris Beards  at a show of his work in northern California a few months ago.  I thought his sculptures were beautiful and whimsical and I liked that they were made from odd bits of natural and recycled materials.  But what were those organic pod thingies he’d strung together to form a sculpture?

Oak galls.  A gall, as you may know, is an abnormal swelling of plant tissue.  Sometimes it happens in response to an injury, but usually this strange growth plays host to some insect.  Galls are usually considered to be harmless and in some cases can be very beneficial:  some galls play host to insects that protect the tree from predators and even care for the tree in that strange way that only, say, an army of ants could do.

Chris told me that he was drawn to the galls and started collecting them for possible use in a sculpture along with found bits of machinery.  (His artist’s statement says, "The fragility of the organic is contrasted with the cool logic of the mechanical."  Yeah, I can dig that.) 

He brought the galls indoors and began working on this sculpture, when something surprising happened: they hatched.  The wasp larvae that had been snuggled inside the galls all decided to emerge at once, and soon the house was filled with the pitter-pat of little wasp wings.

And so this art project met the fate that so many art projects do.  "My wife made me take it outside," Chris said.  He managed to get it finished anyway, and here’s the result. Brilliant?  Crazy?  You decide.

Posted by on September 18, 2006 at 6:14 am, in the category Unusually Clever People.
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8 responses to “Oak Gall Art”

  1. chuck b says:

    The honest and surprisingly visceral reaction that slips quickly from my lips: Ewww. )shudder(

  2. JLB says:

    What an excellent project! I think that the risks are justified by the beautiful end product.

  3. Jane says:

    How do the wasps emerge? – do they bite their way out ?- I seem to remember there being single woodworm-like holes in oak galls that I have seen, but these seem too small for a wasp and were presumably some other type of insect.

  4. firefly says:

    My first reaction was, WASPS? Yipe yipe yipe yipe … !

    But they aren’t the stinging kind. They are quite small, apparently. And, as Amy’s post mentions, they rarely damage the plant.


    (I don’t know what I did before the Internet, my Encyclopedia Cybernetica.)

  5. Carol says:

    Certainly an original. I wonder what he could do with bagworms (worms removed, of course).

  6. ginger says:

    I hope he didn’t receive any ‘stinging’ criticism for that piece! The creativity of the individual always amazes me!

  7. KGBiller says: