El Bosque Tallado: The Sculptured Forest

What can you do when a fire ravages a beautiful forest? Some people might think of salvage logging. One locale with visionary thinkers and artistic talent saw it as an opportunity for an art project and a chance to rebuild community.

High in the mountains near El Bolson, Argentina, lies El Bosque Tallado (the sculptured forest).

Located south of El Bolson, on the slopes of Cerro Piltriquitron, lies the sculptured forest at an altitude of 1400 meters above sea level. Following a devastating wildfire in the late 20th century, local sculptor Marcelo Lopez came up with the idea to give new life to this burned forest. In 1998 a group of artists made the trip on horseback. It took them just 8 days to create the first 13 sculptures. They returned again in 1999 and 2003 to create more.

location of El Bolson- map:
close up of the region

The artists had three goals. They wanted to give new life to burnt trees neglected by humans, to promote an interchange of creative experiences for the whole community, and to enrich the artistic heritage and culture of the region.

foto: El dia

The project has continued to grow over the years. There are now over 50 wooden statues. Admission was free when I went years ago, but now there is a small entrance fee. From the town of El Bolson you can take a taxi part of the way half way up the mountain. From there you will have a 2 hour hike up a steep, rocky road to get to the sculptured forest. However, if you have a rental car, you can drive up the steep road to the car park at the end. Then you will only have about a 1 km hike to the entrance. There is a small kiosk on site for drinks and snacks.

The November day that I visited brought some rain which later turned to snow. Fittingly, the statue seems to be shaking his fists at God to complain about the weather.

With the acceleration of global climate change, many more communities around the world will face environmental challenges. The last several years have brought devastating wildfires to the western USA.

With so many communities in the Western U.S. being affected by recent wildfires, couldn’t the Bosque Tallado serve as a role model to bring artists, foresters, economic development managers and community members together to re-shape a sense of place in locations devoted by wildfire? Various sculptured forests would each have their own unique identity and serve to put these communities on the radar screen of tourists. Even if the economic impact would be minimal, they could serve as a vehicle to bring various parts of a broken community together, and serve as a beacon to create beauty and civic pride from the ashes.

Yesterday I virtually attended a “Teach In” on climate change. Several professors from the college where I work part time gave brief presentations on climate change from different perspectives of their various disciplines. Members of various organizations in our community also participated. Attendees of the conference heard perspectives from the disciplines of Ecology, Conservation Psychology, Microbiology, Sociology, Public Health, Geology, and even from the Visual Arts. Besides stressing the importance of scientific literacy, the concept of community came out over and over.

There are many definitions of what is meant by the word community, which might be geographic or cultural in nature. The presenter at the teach-in related it to other alliterative C words. Words like Connections, Compromise, and Caring for one another. One could also add Communication and Cooperation, or Coexistence.

Groups of people working together for a common good was exemplified by the community members of El Bolson, Argentina. My hope is that you, dear readers, will spread their ideas to communities that might benefit from similar types of projects.

Click on the video below to get a virtual tour!

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