Magical Forest Sculpture Reconnects History of the Witch Hunts

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CC BY 2.0. Philippe Handford/Photo by Andrew (ARG_Flickr) via Flickr

The witch hunts of yore are among some of the darkest moments in history, with countless persons being falsely persecuted and even worse -- executed. The 1612 trial of Pendle Hill's accused witches is said to be the most notorious in England's past, resulting in the hanging of ten people. To mark the event's 400th-anniversary last year, artist Philippe Handford created a series of stunning sculptures along a local forest trail, using felled, sectioned tree trunks that seem like they are frozen in act of falling.

In tune with the region's modern tourist industry based around the Pendle witches, the commemorative project on the Pendle Sculpture Trail also featured four other artists working in stone, wood, and metal. Handford describes the conception and construction behind his "Reconnected" project on My Modern Met:

My work on the trail is site-specific and inspired by the location. Both Reconnected 1 and 2 are on the site of illegally felled trees. My sculptures are an attempt to visually reunite tree stump and trunk.
The metal spines of Handford's striking contribution play an almost surgical role, and the fact that these trees were "illegally felled" hints at the shadows of the historical witch hunts:
Designing a frame for an isolated location brings it's own challenges and relies on accurate dimensions and detailed survey of the site.The trunk was sliced before I designed the supporting structure. Each trunk slice is supported by a bracket that is individually bolted to the frame. The two ends of the curved steel is welded to a ring that fits the profile of the trunk.

Whether or not you believe in witches, it's clear that nature and her fallen are the vehicles of the past here. As the stretched sculptures hints at the hangings, there's also a deliberate retrospective intention in the progressive slicing of the trunks, with their curving forms opening up the annals of time to closer inspection. More over at Philippe Hardford's website and My Modern Met.