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by Dale Connelly, 9/8/00

Dc: This is DCR, it's not the news. Look in the fine museums the world over and you're sure to find great works of exquisite delicacy, but there are many ways to create art, and one of the most popular new forms is with a chain saw.
And among chain saw artist, Don Pulpmeister is the Paganini. The Rembrandt. The Leonardo. I spent a little bit of time with him recently at the Minnesota State Fair, to learn the secrets of the man who they say can coax art from a stump …

(sfx: Acd-5 - chain saw start and idle, under)

Dc: Mr. Pulmpmeister, I've caught you as you're about to begin work on a really big stump.

Pulpmeister: It IS big. I'm gonna have to bring out the V-6.

Dc: How do you decide what to carve?

Pulpmeister: I don't decide. I let the wood speak to me.

Dc: Not literally. It doesn't actually speak.

Pulpmeister: Almost. It's in the grain. Look it over and you can kind tell how the piece wants to go.

Dc: And what is this enormous stump saying to you?

Pulpmeister: That's my arm.

Dc: Sorry. What is THIS enormous stump saying to you?

Pulpmeister: This wants to be a current political sculpture. It wants to be Vice President Gore and Governor Bush shaking hands.

Dc: Life sized?

Pulpmeister: I don't know how big these men are … but I think it's fitting that they should take shape out of a stump. I mean … that's what candidates do, right? They "stump."

Dc: Good luck to you.

(sfx: Bcd-5 - chain saw rev and cut (short))

And here he goes, taking a large chunk off the side right away, and now going across the top, leveling it off and beginning to cut down into the center, making a deep "V" and coming back up the other side.
And he stops now to take a look at what he's done and to think about the next step. What are you thinking? It looks pretty good so far, eh?

Pulpmeister: No … I was thinking that I may have misinterpreted what the wood was saying.

Dc: It's not saying "Bush and Gore?"

Pulpmeister: This part I lopped off over here was going to be Mr. Gore's head. Now it looks more like an end table.

Dc: That's not good.

Pulpmeister: This piece actually wants to be just one person.

Dc: Governor Bush?

Pulpmeister: Well, to avoid any local favoritism, let's make the figure an American Voter, reaching to put a ballot in the ballot box. What was gonna be the vice president's head can be the ballot box instead.

Dc: That's a valid and non partisan political theme.

(sfx: Bcd-5 - chain saw rev and cut (short))

And so the artistic process re-commences. Turning this lifeless stump into a sculpture, Don Pulpmeister, creating here at our MPR state fair booth.
Are you going to make the voter a man or a woman?

Pulpmeister: I'm feeling creative. Let's have the voter be a woman, OK?

Dc: OK with me.

(sfx: Bcd-5 - chain saw rev and cut (short))

And so … a tribute is under construction to female suffrage … a tribute to the woman voter as she is today …

Pulpmeister: Ooops!

Dc: Ooops?

Pulpmeister: Let's make it a man, shall we?
It's really hard to do curves with this, it's a very heavy chain saw.

Dc: And so Don Pulpmeister will create an image of a voter casting his ballot.

(sfx: Bcd-5 - chain saw rev and cut (short))

And the wood chips are flying here … raining like organic confetti. It's amazing how quickly this imposing piece of wood is reduced in size, thanks to the power in Mr. Pulpmeister's chain saw and his mighty arms.

Pulpmeister: Whew!

Dc: Tough work.

Pulpmeister: (breathless) I'm sweating like a pig. In fact, I think I'm going to make this a sculpture of a pig.

Dc: I thought it was a man casting his vote.

Pulpmeister: I don't think the wood wants to be that. It's telling me it wants to be something a lot shorter and smaller.

Dc: The creative process is never ending, isn't it.

Pulpmeister: You can't be rigid going into something like this.

(sfx: Bcd-6 - chain saw rev and cut (long))
(dc and tk talk over)

Dc: And so … partly because of the way he, himself is sweating, stump shaper Don Pulpmeister is creating a pig that will stand forever as …

Pulpmeister: Ooops. It's more of a goat.

Dc: … a goat, then. A goat that will be representative of his talent …

Pulpmeister: There go the front legs. A goat would be hard to do now, but I think I can still make it a chicken.

Dc: It's going to be a chicken?

Pulpmeister: Yup.

Dc: And so he sets off to create a masterwork … a chicken! A symbol of all that is right with the fine art of chain saw carving …

Pulpmeister: Whoops. There go the legs. Maybe I'll concentrate on the head. Even just a beak can be a big challenge.

Dc: So it's going to be a chicken head.

Pulpmeister: Maybe just the beak. But with a kind of enigmatic … Mona Lisa type smile …

Dc: Well, we'll leave you to your work. Don Pulpmeister, chain saw artist.

Pulpmeister: Whoopsie.

Dc: A man who reduces large stumps to their essential artistic essence.


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