Andrea Gandini, a 22-year-old Italian sculptor, is growing a name for himself by turning Rome's dead tree stumps into much-admired works of art. Gandini, who began tree carving five years ago, chipped away at his 66th stump in the huge Villa Pamphili park recently.
He has plenty of material to work with. Rome, one of the greenest cities in Europe, has roughly 313,000 trees filling its parks and lining the streets of the city. However, many were planted a century ago and are now weak or dying. Seeing how they were neglected made him want to act.
"I had been sculpting wood since I was a kid, in my garage. Then I chose to carve a stump that was out on the street. That is how I chose to start carving stumps in Rome," said Gandini, as he worked on his latest creation.
He said he no personal claim to the faces, animals and other artwork carved out of the stumps. "It takes me about a week to finish one sculpture, then it becomes everyone's. It's a passion and a bit of a fixation," he says, as people stopped to admire his work and take photos.
Gandini maps the stumps on his website and the sculptures are becoming something of a tourist attraction. Tour guides even starting to include them in their packages. "Stumps are not very well considered, but they have the right features that make them perfect for carving," said Gandini. "Rome has many stumps that are waiting to become pieces of art."
Despite the popularity of his work among locals and tourists, Roman authorities have been less enthusiastic. There's no law that forbids people from carving dead tree stumps, but police have threatened to ban him from historic areas using tough new rules drawn up in recent years to maintain decorum.
Gandini says he loves nature and it hurts him to see the trees become a safety hazard. They often fall and smash cars during storms, and city hall says some 86,000 need to be specially maintained or chopped down. "If nothing changes in 10 years, there will be hardly any trees left," he said. - Reuters