Stag made from Christmas trees is in Green Bay Broadway District | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
GREEN BAY – At the same time people were tossing out their Christmas trees after the holidays, artist Casey Early-Krueger was scooping them up.
He collected more than 80 of them from curbsides and yard waste sites, trimmed off the branches to be composted and then got to work in his Hortonville studio. Two weeks later, there stood a majestic stag looking back at him.
The male deer, its 12-foot-long body made of tree trunks and the distinctive rack from branches, was created at the request of On Broadway Inc. for its Winterfest in late January and stands on display outside Beerntsen’s Candies, 200 N. Broadway.
It’s hard to miss, but what the public might not know about the sculpture that has been turning heads is that its head turns, too. It’s an interactive piece. A wooden lever on the stag’s side and a system of pulleys allow passersby to make the its head and shoulders move, as if it’s watching traffic go up and down Broadway.
Early-Krueger, who attended Preble High School and the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, admits to having a bit of an engineering mind, which came in handy for creating the movement. It’s much trickier than a pull of the lever lets on.
He originally thought he would just make the head turn, but when doing research he realized stags move at the shoulder and the base of the head. That required twice as many brackets to allow for better range of motion.
The sculpture, which is tethered to the ground to help it withstand stiff winds, had to be stabilized so it didn’t pivot in places it wasn’t supposed to.
“It’s always problem solving. Even the placement of the ears changed a couple of times, because the cables were getting caught around them,” Early-Krueger said. “It needed to be able to just stand and do its thing while I’m not here to tend to it.”
The creative process started by looking at pictures of stags to decide on proper posture for the piece and then drawing over the image to find the structural lines, which would become the trunks. As he began fastening the trunks together, it was like a puzzle, always searching for two that fit together in a way that allowed for the sturdiest connection. The trunk for the body had to be hefty so the fastener could be deeply set, and the ones for the legs were carved to taper at the ankles.
“I’m grateful for the challenge,” Early-Krueger said. “It wasn’t what I initially had in mind, but it was definitely worth the effort.”
It’s his second such animal sculpture out of Christmas trees. Two years ago he did a fox that was on display in the Broadway District.
“So far I haven’t seen anybody else do this,” he said. “Since I was a kid I’d look at those trees that just get discarded and that’s not good. My way is to make less waste. There’s always an opportunity.”
He purposely left the trunks a little rough and sappy, in part to keep people from doing the sculpture any harm.
“It’s pokey and sticky, but it also helps tell a story about what the material is and where it came from,” he said.
The sculpture, which now belongs to On Broadway, will move somewhere else in the district this spring when the ground thaws. Its new home has not yet been determined.
The stag is the latest piece of Green Bay-area public art for Early-Krueger. As one of four artists in The Fab Collab, he’s also been a part of creating large sculptures for On Broadway’s igNight Markets and “Nebulous,” the aluminum spiral with stained epoxy over plexiglass near Pasquale’s International Café in De Pere.
He and Naomi Moes-Jenkins, also of The Fab Collab, are behind the frog and toad sculptures that look like they’re jumping from the side of a building on Main Street into the East River. They’ll also install seven insects in the new Carol & Bruce Bell Children’s Garden opening in May at Green Bay Botanical Garden. He also carved a play canoe for the garden.
Early-Krueger is also a voiceover artist, so if you don’t see his work you might hear it on the radio in ads.