Ash wood – catastrophe or opportunity for creativity?

Since 2002, the emerald ash bore beetle, Agrilus planipennis, has destroyed more than 20 million ash trees in the US, with only 30% of the waste timber recycled into low-end products such as mulch and firewood. High value uses could turn this “waste” material into a valuable resource and an economic opportunity, especially considering that, before the widespread development of plastics, aluminum, and carbon fiber, the high tensile strength of ash wood was optimal for fabrication and use in the form of vehicle undercarriages, industrial infrastructure, and sporting goods. The ash bore beetle only established itself in New Jersey, a state with 24.7 million imperiled ash trees, in Spring 2014. The movement of ash wood is currently under federal and state quarantine.

In Fall 2015, Joe Scanlan (Director of the Visual Arts Program, Lewis Center of the Arts) and Sigrid Adriaenssens ran the course CEE418/VIS418 Extraordinary Processes to adopt new ways of thinking about and finding novel uses for local infested ash wood as a catastrophically available material.

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The MEDIA STUDIES exhibit, Lucas Gallery, Lewis Center for the Arts, Princeton Universy, features  sculptures crafted from ash wood by our students (from January 12 through February 5, 2016). These artworks exploit ash’s exceptional strength and flexibility and are at the same time unusual and beautifully crafted.  

Author: Sigrid Adriaenssens
Images: Sigrid Adriaenssens, Tim Michiels, Victor Charpentier

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