Nick Swearer

Nick Swearer, spent the latter years of his childhood in Northfield, was later a Carleton student, and has had a meritorious artistic career. One of his works, a giant iguana, sits in front of the Science Museum of Minnesota. Nick is currently a well-known sculptor whose studio/foundry is located in Connecticut.

On Building the Railroad-spike Tree Sculpture

I’m so happy the Guthrie’s found such a “fitting” site for Mariea’s sculpture. I had a nice conversation with Vicky Guthrie a few weeks back, and I suggested she look for a site that would keep it in Northfield. Things seem to have come together perfectly.

It was quite some time ago that I made Mariae’s “Tree.” The best I can remember it was 42 years ago; that would date it to 1970 when I was 14 years old. It was the third or fourth sculpture I had ever made and the first large sculpture at that date (under Mariea’s encouragement). It was playful piece created for an encouraging and mentoring friend.

I made it directly on site at her house, which was then out of town among cornfields. I’m told now that site is across from Three Links Cottages. Vicky told me that Mariea had it moved when she moved into town so it has been moved once already, and I don’t know if anything more was done to the concrete base at that time.

Nick Swearer standing beside “Tree” in 1971.

To the best of my recollection—and I’m looking at a picture of a very young me standing next to it in process—I dug a hole (I don’t know how deep, I’m not sure I understood frost heave at that age), made a simple wooden form, poured cement or concrete (again I’m not sure I knew the difference at that age), and then embedded spikes in the wet mix. The tree was then built from the embedded spikes.

I have always just called it the “Tree.” I don’t know if Mariea has another name for it. I was not sure it still existed until I spoke to Vicky. That it still exists may mean the base is fairly deep or has been reworked. In the photo, I’m looking at the top of the base, which is about 14 inches square. I doubt that I put any reinforcing rod in the cement.