Updated: Jun 2, 2021
A moose caught in a barbed wire fence, a sharp twist of fate, accidentally creating a work of art amidst the struggle... this is the result of an interview with the parent of an addict.
In late 2020, the idea of interview-inspired artwork began brewing in my mind.
I felt drawn to dive deep into creating meaningful art and exploring the unknown. A big idea was born - listen to others' experiences, connect with nature, and interpret these stories into inspired artworks.
The "Wisdom from the Wilderness" project began to unfold to explore human experience, lessons found in nature, and connect it all through art.
The power of storytelling changes lives.
Step 1 - Interview
The first step in this project was to interview an individual about a significant experience in their life, get to know a bit about them, and listen to their story. The following is a summary of the interview, shared with permission.
Rob Jüng is an avid hunter, fisherman, and outdoorsman from Melfort, SK, Canada. His deep love for nature guides him to peaceful solitude on the lakes in summer and quiet observation of the forest during fall hunting seasons. In these places, everything else in life disappears, clearing away thoughts, expectations, worries, and obligations.
These places became even more of a refuge when everything in his life changed.
He became a parent of an addict, watching a child slip into the darkness of addiction.
While struggling with the effects addiction has on a family, Rob became an Artist.
Addiction affects a whole family. This difficult experience brings on many thoughts and emotions - fear, depression, anger, thoughts of giving up, all the while becoming more distanced from family and friends.
Rob's welding profession began to shift to address the complexity in his life as a parent of an addict.
The struggle ultimately resulted in discovering an artistic gift and inspiration to create welded metal sculptures.
“When my stepdaughter became an addict, my self changed forever… it made me into an Artist.” - Rob Jüng
Because of a painful experience, powerful works of art took shape in the “Weeping Willow” series, leaving a deeply emotional impact on thousands of viewers.
Creating art as a result of the circumstances became a way to rewire the struggle, working free of the painful entanglement, forming a signpost of truth, healing, hope, and connection for his family and countless others.
Rob's story is the basis of inspiration for this particular project.
Step 2 - Seek Inspiration from the Wilderness
After hearing Rob's story, I took time to absorb it while in the solitude of nature. Nature is a steadying source of clarity and inspiration in my own life and art practice. The wilderness has a way of making sense of everything and renewing my creative energy. I often find my artistic ideas in this way.
In a quiet moment by the river, this story began making connections to the wilderness and the inspired artwork's direction drifted into realization in my mind.
Step 3 - Create an Inspired Artwork
Chainsaw carving a log into a moose was the direction I felt inspired to create.
A spruce tree log formed the forward body of a moose. Chainsaw and power tools carved the composition from the wood.
Antlers were the next challenge. At first, I thought to attach real moose antlers because I doubted my ability to create them; but after a conversation with a fellow artist and nature-enthusiast, I was challenged to take artistic risk by attempting to create antlers from wood.
For the first time, I assembled a matching pair of glued laminated timber blocks (glulam), which would serve as the base to carve the antlers from. I chose this method over log wood because I sensed it would be stronger for the thin and pointy areas of the antlers.
Using 2x6 lumber cut into sections, glued together with outdoor wood adhesive, and clamped in several stages, I created two very rough shapes for antlers. I borrowed a moose skull from a hunter friend to serve as reference as I began carving wooden moose paddles.
The antlers were definitely the most challenging in construction, carving, keeping balanced on both sides, and mounting to the moose's head.
The antlers were mounted using wood dowel and outdoor wood glue. Any fine cracks and seams were filled with glue and sawdust or auto body filler putty.
A white primer over the antlers sealed them and created a base color.
The moose and antlers were hand-brushed with several layers and colors of wood stain to achieve a life-like appearance, with a few touches of oil paint.
Finally, the wood sculpture was sealed with UV and water-resistant timber oil for outdoor use.
The other half of the sculpture was made using barbed wire and fence post (materials donated by Dave and Anne Hyde.) A section of log formed the base into which the fence post was installed.
Working with barbed wire was an interesting experience; one that left several marks regardless of leather gloves and protective clothing.
Despite the challenge, I managed to wrangle the barbed wire to cut it into several lengths, gathered them into groups, and twisted them together to form the branches of a weeping willow tree around the fence post. Tie wire and fence staples secured the tree to its base.
Lastly, the barbed wire was entangled with the moose's antlers, creating the symbolic connection of a story that ran through my mind.
Step 4: The Story Emerges
What it Means
The fence post represents addiction, deeply rooted and unmoving.
The barbed wire represents the effects addiction has on others that are close by.
The moose represents the parent caught in the tangled, painful web of a loved one’s unnatural substance abuse.
The willow tree represents discovery of self-expression and creation, built around addiction, formed as a by-product of the struggle to break free from the pain.
The moose will work its way free and leave its mark of the struggle - a story told beyond words; the story of the struggle, transformed.
Wisdom from the Wilderness
Things get caught up where the natural and unnatural meet - twisted and tangled in the clash of opposing forces. Unintentional damage occurs. Sharp barbs make it painful to break free, but it’s a fight to keep on living life.
Within the struggle, something else takes shape. Accidentally stumbling into this mess results in a surprisingly unexpected creation of circumstance.
Is it a curse? Or is it a gift?
Once free from the entanglement, signs of the struggle will remain behind – a message to others who wander that way. A post of warning, of hope, and an inspiring outcome resulting from the struggle.
Artist: Michelle Thevenot
The Struggle, 2021
Log wood & mixed media sculpture.
Dimensions (inches): 88 H x 108 W x 44 D
Carved with chainsaw and power tools.
Inspired by an interview with Rob Jüng, parent of an addict, metal artist.
Shop available artworks
Read about more inspired projects
View the art portfolio
Contact the Artist