The Chicago Tree Project

Margot McMahon

Jackson Park
63rd and Lake Shore Drive
In 2017, Flock was moved to Columbus Park.

Like the canary in the coal mine, birds are a first alert to climate change and potential danger.  These dozen turquoise song birds and one owl grace an elegant 35-foot elm decimated by the Dutch Elm disease.  A visual dialogue between the owl that can attack song birds and song birds that can attack owls exists within the elm’s dead branches.  Song birds and owls interact for territory, but are peaceful in this tree along Lake Shore Drive in Jackson Park.  The songbirds are carved from an ash tree and cast in resin, then painted with automobile paint for durability and glimmer.  The owl is carved in maple, then also cast in painted resin.  The sculpture allows a fifth season for the tree to offer shelter and food for animals and bird life as well as enjoyment for the neighbors.  Placing the sculptures in the tree brings attention to the 120,000 trees that are being removed from Chicago’s parks due to invasive species and warmer temperatures.  Flock is a daily reminder to reduce CO2—ease your foot off the gas pedal please! 

Knight and Queen Checkmate

Lincoln Park – Belmont and Lake Shore Drive


Knight and queen chess pieces in a checkmate position are carved from two twenty-foot tall ash trunks that leaned towards each other at the corner of Belmont and Lake Shore Drive in Lincoln Park.  The knight is checking the queen as if on a chessboard, but the queen is eloquently gesturing that she has the last move. The knight began with the concept of War Horse, then took on a Guernica ferocity as it writhes up and out of its chess piece.  The queen has two stacked and toppling crowns above the stately profile and dress of Queen Elizabeth.  With a touch of humor, she has the frontal face of the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland Both chess pieces indicate they are in a fierce moment of battle with raised hoof and stiletto heal compounding their steely gazes.  The apartment dwellers were taken into consideration with the composition directed to above.  I invite the viewer to interpret the interaction with their own experiences.