Keith Jennings's Tree Spirits

On Saint Simons Island, Georgia, you can meet the spirits that dwell in the trees. Artist Keith Jennings exposed their faces by chipping away the excess wood:

Jennings first embarked on hisTree Spirits project back in 1982 when he decided to creatively manipulate a tree in his backyard with a few hand tools. Starting out as a way to kill time on a budget, the artist wound up honing his craft. Jennings was later commissioned to apply his wood sculpting skills on a series of trees throughout St. Simons Island, located right off the coast of the state of Georgia.

Jennings took two to four days to sculpt each serene face throughout the forest, allowing them to intriguingly blend into their surroundings. (Of course, once they're spotted, it's hard not to notice their faces.) Each sculptural portrait emerges from its wooden post like a haunting sage, ready to impart some knowledge. The artist says that each face he carves into the wood is created entirely according to the tree. He insists, "I don’t have that much to do with it. The wood speaks to you, ya know?”

Link -via Juxtapoz | Photo: Slychedelic

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Girdling is completely around the tree and it is harmful.

And I think the forest rangers would love to have a talk with him if it's that horrible. Why don't you report them? I'm sure they have an email address you can bring this to their attention with.
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I may be mistaken, but isn't he carving into the already exposed area left by a fallen branch? If you look carefully at the bark in the middle image above you can see the bark pattern is indicative of a branch. Also if you look at the photos at the link it becomes apparent that most of his work is done this way.
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He probably isn't hurting the tree by carving into a small section of the cambium layer. Trees get wounded all the time (pruning, e.g.) and they heal themselves. I'd be more concerned about opening the tree to infection.
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Actually he is doing a great deal of damage to those trees. The only part of the tree that is actually alive is the outer inch or so of the tree under the bark. That is where the nutrient and water transport system of the tree is located. So by hacking away a large portion of the tree he is essentially choking the tree by reducing the amount of water and nutrients that can be pulled up from the ground by the roots towards the upper branches. It is termed girdling.
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