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Kentucky Arts and Culture

KY Artist's Interactive Sculpture Is Free, Fun Nature Connection

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Cheri Lawson
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There’s increasing evidence that connecting with nature has physical and psychological benefits.  

At Josephine Sculpture Park, one Frankfort artist invites visitors to connect through "tree art" and become part of her "One Million Tree" project. 

When you pull in the gravel driveway at Josephine Sculpture Park in Frankfort, the first artwork you see is a dozen old telephone poles designed to replicate a forest. Embedded in seven of the poles, artist Lucy Azubuike has included pictures of her tree art. The photos are naturally occurring images including faces, animals, and figures she sees in trees on the grounds of the park.

"For me, art is an instrument that is paramount to having people stop for a moment to think twice about what is happening around them,” said Azubuike.

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Credit Cheri Lawson
Lucy Azubuike is giving a tour of her "Me in Me" interactive sculpture at Josephine Sculpture Park.

It’s a blustery Sunday, with temperatures topping out at 30-degree day. The self-described jungle ambassador and tree whisperer is leading a tour of her interactive sculpture she calls "Me in Me".

“'Me in Me,' Because it’s you. You are connected with the land, with nature. So subconsciously we don’t know that. So it’s about a lot of open-mindedness,” said Azubuike.

Her sculpture is one of more than 60 public artworks among walking paths in the native Kentucky habitat at the 30-acre park.  

Originally from Nigeria, Azubuike has been in the United States for 10 years and resides in Frankfort. The tour group is standing in the midst of her sculpture, socially distanced. The artist points to one of her photos in the exhibit, which she labeled "My Dog, My Guide".

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Credit Cheri Lawson
One of Azubuike's pictures embedded in the telephone pole. The pic is called 'My dog, my guide'.

Everyone in the small group examines the photos to see if they recognize the images the same way Azubuike has titled them.  Nancy Barnett is intrigued by the art. Barnett refers to herself as a tree hugger.

“Lucy, I’m never going to be able to get through a hike in the woods now. I’ll be there for an eternity,” said Barnett. 

Azubuike says she has been told her tree art is primal and that resonates with her. “From the root the beginning like the essence,” said Azubuike. 

Her "Me in Me" sculpture includes a scavenger hunt. Laminated maps are placed in a metal container near the sculpture showing where the actual trees with the images of photos she took are located. She leads the group from the sculpture through the woods to look for the trees that match the photos.   

The tree with the image she labeled as "High" resembles a person. Azubuike says the tree has changed since she originally took the photo three years ago.  Michael Potapov compares the photo to the actual tree.

"As I’m here in front of the tree, the more I look at it as I focus, the better I can see the face and the imagery,” said Potapov.  

As the group walks through the woods there is a discussion of how therapeutic and meditative finding images in the trees can be. Participant Lynn Cruz said walking in the woods looking for images in trees has expanded her horizons. 

“It helps you see detail. And when you’re looking at detail you can’t be depressed, you can’t be worried. It’s just a restorative thing,” said Cruz.

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Credit Cheri Lawson
Azubuike discussing her sculpture with people taking a tour of her 'Me in Me' sculpture.

Park program director Jeri Katherine Howell is along for the tour. Howell said the park is a safe and free place to visit right now during COVID. She’s also inspired by Azubuike’s work.

“Lucy has taught me about seeing beyond what meets the eye and to find the images or the personalities or  the inspiration in nature,” said Howell. 

Part of the mission of the park is to reconnect people to each other and the land through the arts. Park director Melanie VanHouten said that’s what Lucy’s work does. Her sculpture, said VanHouten, is an extension of her project called "One Million Trees."

“So this project is she wants to record one million trees all over the world that would become part of this larger database and map system where people could go and find them, that all have these naturally occurring images in them,” said VanHouten. 

Azubuike is calling on people everywhere to find images in trees, take pictures, and share on social media with the hashtag "onemilliontreearts".

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If you appreciate access to this important content during this global pandemic, please help us continue to provide public service journalism and information to Central and Eastern Kentucky communities.