Sculptor Andrea Gandini is pictured next to a sculpture of a wolf's face from a dead tree stump. Reuters
Art from bark may be done on a lark, but Andrea Gandini, a 22-year-old Roman sculptor, has other motives. Contrary to what the police think, he wants to preserve nature.
He has stumped everyone in the Eternal City by converting dead tree stumps into classic pieces of art. This is because he feels the trees are either weak or dying.
Gandini, who began his tree carvings around five years ago, chipped away at his 66th stump in the huge Villa Pamphili Park on Friday.
He has plenty of raw material to work with. Rome is known as one of the greenest cities in Europe, with its 313,000 trees filling its many parks and lining the streets in the city Centre.
However, many were planted nearly a century ago and are now weak or dying. Seeing how they were neglected made Gandini want to act.
"I had been sculpting wood since I was a kid, in my garage. Then I chose to carve a stump that was out on the street. That is how I chose to start carving stumps in Rome," he said, as he worked on his latest creation.
He said he liked to meet people while working and had no personal claim to the faces, animals and other artwork carved out the stumps.
"It takes me about a week to finish one sculpture, then it becomes everyone's. It's a passion and a bit of a fixation," he added, as passers-by stopped to admire his work and take photos with their phones.
Gandini maps the stumps on his website, and the sculptures are becoming a tourist attraction. Tour guides even include his work in their packages.
"Stumps are not very well considered but they have the right features that make them perfect for carving," he said. "Rome has many stumps that are waiting to become pieces of art."
Despite the popularity of his work among locals and tourists, the Rome authorities have been less enthusiastic.
Although there is no law that forbids people from carving dead tree stumps, police have threatened to ban him from historic areas using tough new rules drawn up in recent years to maintain decorum.
Gandini says he loves nature and it hurts him to see the trees become a safety hazard.
They often fall and smash cars during storms, and city hall says some 86,000 need to be specially maintained or chopped down.
"If nothing changes in ten years there will be hardly any trees left," Gandini said.
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