Artist Breathes New Life into Remains of Oak Trees Along the SC River | South Carolina News

By KARL Puckett, The Beaufort Gazette

BEAUFORT, SC (AP) — A professional chainsaw artist is carving a 21-foot-tall work of art along the Beaufort River that boaters will be hard-pressed to miss.

The sculpture, carved from the inner parts of an old laurel oak tree, is so large that Chris Lantz of Extreme Sculpting had to erect scaffolding while working on the upper sections. What emerges are two elegant great herons, one of which is about to take flight.

“We gave him a rough idea,” says Steve Prochnow, “and he took it from there.”

Steve and his wife, Valerie, a recently retired couple who moved to Beaufort from California in August, live on Verdier Road off Ribaut Road. They hired Lantz to make a sculpture out of the remains of an oak tree they had recently removed. The tree, which was 70 or 80 years old, was so massive that it took several days to cut it down.

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“We can’t wait for people in the boats to pass by and notice it,” says Steve Prochnow of the curvy design taking shape in his backyard overlooking the Beaufort River, with views of downtown Beaufort and the Woods Memorial Bridge.

A preview photo of one of the herons, posted on Lantz’s Facebook page, garnered more than 700 likes and 90 comments.

“It’s very pretty,” says Prochnow.

Lantz and his family traveled from their home in northern Georgia to work on the project. The chainsaws he uses to create his art come in all sizes, from the battery-powered one to the largest, which has a three-foot-long bar. He uses hand chisels and other tools for the finer details.

Lantz, 31, has been using chainsaws to make art for 12 years and the work has taken him all over the country where he has carved bears, eagles, owls, seashells, dolphins and turtles from sea. “Every man,” said Lantz.

The cost of the sculptures can range from $200 to $25,000, and Lantz says he works with clients’ budgets to come up with a design they’ll love.

Chainsaw carving is in the family. His father and two uncles became chainsaw carvers in 1989, a year before Lantz was born, led by a Florida preacher who felt led by God to teach them how to carve, Lantz said. Twenty years later, Lantz began his own journey. Since then, his work has earned him numerous awards. The Prochnows tracked him down online.

“The more complex,” Lantz says of the projects he loves the most, “the better.”

Carving herons out of oak fits that bill, he says. For one, oak wood is hard, and working so high off the ground also slows down work.

At the construction site on February 24, Lantz watched from his perch on the scaffolding surrounding the tree, where herons came to life, shaped in a feathery detail that seemed to belie his big, noisy tools. Pieces of wood he had hewn from the dead oak tree were in a heap.

Lantz carves the sculpture in one piece, he says, which adds to the difficulty.

The Beaufort project could end up being one of his best, Lantz says. “It’s not every day that people want to have 20-foot trees carved,” Lantz said.

Capturing one of the herons as it’s about to fly, notes Lantz, will provide movement, so it’s not just a lifeless sculpture. He lives for these projects where his clients give him artistic freedom.

“Woodcarving,” he says, “is purely an art of subtraction.”

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