Bringing iconic elm back to life

Wendy Elliott
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Doug Morse of Grand Pre shows off his work in progress at the Grand Pré National Historic Site.

By Wendy Elliott

Doug Morse spends much of his time crafting wooden signs.

As the artist representing the Planters in the developing triptych sculpture at Grand Pré National Historic Site, he is enjoying the freedom to create.

The Grand Pré resident’s segment of the iconic elm tree sculpture was unveiled last month at the visitor information centre as a work in progress.

Well aware of the rich history in the local landscape, Morse told the audience he relished the opportunity to choose the themes and scenes representing the Planters.

Park director Victor Tetrault called the elm at Horton Landing that was lost in November of 2010 a “magnificent sentinel where eagles landed.”

He said after the tree, which dated back to the 1840s, toppled in a storm there was little doubt it needed some form of preservation.

In April 2011, Morse, Acadian sculptor Monette Léger, of Shediac, N.B. and Mi’kmaq artist Gerald Gloade, from Millbrook, met for the first planning exercise.

Tetrault said they brainstormed about creative ways to bring the tree back to life. All three artists agreed that Cape Blomidon would be in the background of each section. They also agreed on water for the carved ribbon joining the three sections.

Morse recalled his excitement when he heard the massive elm had been harvested. He said due to some rot basswood is being superimposed on the base of elm.

“It holds the detail and you won’t see the grain when it’s varnished,” he explained.

The Planters had few visual symbols, Morse indicated, so he decided to depict a vessel, a plow and a church.

The Morse family arrived in Nova Scotia in May 1760.

Léger was artist in residence at Grand Pré National Historic Site last July launching her segment.

A multifaceted artist, who was at the unveiling along with Gloade, she said the overall work has the theme of reconciliation.

The complete sculpture should be unveiled at the historic site July 1, and it will be housed inside the visitors’ centre.

Organizations: Grand Pré National Historic Site

Geographic location: Shediac, Millbrook, Nova Scotia

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