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Ashes to dust

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David Nash’s Ash Dome in Wales paired with Adeam’s off-the-shoulder voile dress.

Date stamp: 1977. The Cold War raged on. Nuclear war felt like a real possibility. Unemployment was skyrocketing. The planet seemed to be dying. Amid the gloom, British sculptor David Nash offered a gesture toward a brighter 21st century: He planted a ring of 22 ash trees close to his home in Wales and sculpted their growth through fletching (a technique of bending, staking, slicing V-cuts). He made the commitment to stay with the sculpture over time, over 36 years and counting.

Some urbanites balk at Nash’s treatment of nature, abiding by the “Don’t touch!” principal of environmental sensibility. But he sees his “site-appropriate” art within the practice of rural agriculture, of people working the earth. “Part of the point was that nature actually gets on very well when a human being is caring for it and lives with it,” Nash said in a 2001 Sculpture Magazine interview.

And that care comes through: Nash likes to think of people who know nothing of his work stumbling upon his sculptures. “I hope they will get a sense of the light touch, that there is something here that serves as a stepping stone for the mind into the continuum of that particular place,” he said. “To varying degrees, we spiritualize material by our work with it. Unconsciously we are creating a language that another human being can pick up on. We connect to the spirit quality that has been put into it.”

An act of connection, an act of faith: Nash and his wife welcomed the millennium within the halo of Ash Dome.

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