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Becoming a work of art: Artist Curtis Ingvoldstad works to transform a 17-foot-tall piece of a white pine in a wooden sculpture

Professional chainsaw carver Curtis Ingvoldstad is spending a week carving a 17-foot-tall white pine log into an array of animals at BSU along the lakeshore behind Hobson Union. The stump is part of a tree removed last year during renovations at Chet Anderson Stadium.

BEMIDJI -- Looking out over Lake Bemidji is an eagle, perched atop a tree at the lakefront behind BSU.

It perhaps would not be that unusual a sight, except this eagle is made of wood and sits on top of a 17-foot-tall portion of a white pine that was removed nearly a year ago as Chet Anderson Stadium was renovated.

Eight sections of those white pines were saved by the university, said Erika Bailey-Johnson, sustainability coordinator for BSU. Two are being erected to become an archway for the football stadium.

Another piece is becoming a work of art.

Approximately 17 feet tall, it was anchored with concrete and iron at the lakeside behind the Lower Hobson Union on the BSU campus, and this week, Nerstrand, Minn.,-based artist Curtis Ingvoldstad is working to transform it into a sculpture.

"It's like a totem pole of animals, but it's realistic," he said.

Ingvoldstad came into the project with an idea of which animals he would include and then, as he examined the piece and its location, those visions were adapted to fit its surroundings.

The sculpture, when complete, will feature aquatic animals on the bottom, shoreline animals above that and then more terrestrial and avian creatures animals on top.

The work will take him about seven days, figuring in some rain delays. The wooden pole was first marked off in feet and then portioned off to ensure that there is enough room to feature each of the larger animals, including a bear, an eagle, an owl and more.

"That's what keeps everything in proportion," Ingvoldstad said of the markings. "It keeps me on track."

Ingvoldstad is currently chainsawing the pole, creating the rough characters, which will then be burned with a torch, sanded, brushed, polished, then sanded again before they are painted.

A beaver will of course be included in the sculpture, which was a specific request from BSU President Richard Hanson. Ingvoldstad said Hanson actually asked that beaver be placed at the very top, but because the sculpture will transition from its base to illustrate the wildlife found in the water, on land and in the air, it would not work.

Instead, Ingvoldstad said, he plans to have the beaver gnawing at the bottom of the sculpture to show it as a dominant creature.

Ingvoldstad, who has been doing chainsaw sculptures for about 15 years, arrived in Bemidji on Monday as he set up his work area and surveyed his surroundings, coming up with a plan.

As he looked around, he noted the sculpture will be viewed from 360 degrees, so the animals -- everything from a large bears to small birds -- will be featured from all angles.

"There will be little things throughout that people will be able to find," Ingvoldstad said. "My goal is always to get people to walk all the way around ... it's interactive."