Call this sculpture the ultimate treehugger, if you will. The artist, Leslie Fry, calls her work Pining. Made from painted plaster and pine cones, the seven-foot statue is part of a six-piece outdoor collection integrated into a nature trail at Boca Ciega Millennium Park in Seminole, Fla.

Fry says the imagery and placement of her sculptures were designed to intensify awareness about the effects of human impact on the natural environment. While Fry's work has been displayed in galleries all around the world — her next show opens April 8 at Allyn Gallup Contemporary Art in Sarasota — the power of her Wild Life Sculpture Search is that you must go into nature to find it. And that's the point.

"If you're walking along, looking for the sculptures," explains Fry, "You're also looking carefully at everything around you."

Art in the environment

Look carefully, you must. Pining blends seamlessly into a dead pine tree, from which it draws inspiration. There's a fanciful bird tucked away in the nooks of another tree, and a wildly anthropomorphic lizard curled near water's edge.

Fry's art won't last forever. Pining is nothing more than painted plaster and pine cones. Being made largely from natural materials, all of the project's sculptures will eventually biodegrade and become part of the nature which surrounds them. While the pieces will live on in a video (posted below) and a companion book telling the story of how they came to be, their transient nature is all the more reason to see them soon.

Boca Ciega Millennium Park is located close to the Gulf of Mexico in Seminole, Fla. — not far from the Tampa/St. Petersburg area. The 182 acre park contains several distinct natural communities: pine flatwoods, coastal oak hammock, mangrove swamp, salt marsh, bay head and wetlands. It's also a stop on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's "Great Florida Birding Trail," with a large population of shore and wading birds, raptors, upland birds and water fowl.

"Pining" image reproduced by permission of the artist.

Copyright Lighter Footstep 2009