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Larry Lefner works on "Humingbird Heaven".

Paul Wellman

Larry Lefner works on "Humingbird Heaven".


Montecito’s Massive Tree Sculpture

Larry Lefner Nearing Completion of His “Hummingbird Haven”


Thursday, November 22, 2012
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Larry Lefner has spent most of the past three months sitting in a sycamore tree in Montecito, tapping away at the wood with a rubber mallet and chisel.

He’s working on “Hummingbird Haven,” a roughly 15-foot-tall wood sculpture commissioned by homeowners Gary and Lynn Hock after a large tree in their front yard died. Rather than remove the majority of the tree, the Hocks called Lefner, one of the obscure medium’s best, to transform the stump into a unique work of art.

Larry Lefner works on "Humingbird Heaven".
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman

Larry Lefner works on “Humingbird Heaven”.

Though Lefner and his wife, Janna, have called the area home for around a year, Larry’s carvings and sculptures have been a part of communities from his native home of Garden Grove to the remote Woody Creek, Colorado. In Woody Creek, Lefner ran an art gallery nearby Hunter S. Thompson’s “Owl Farm” residence, managing as many as 35 artists and selling his sculptures.

The current sculpture is Lefner’s largest, a towering construct of soft sycamore wood shaped by the artist’s mixed bag of tools, which range from small chainsaws to the fine edge of an X-acto knife. Lefner began carving at an early age, eventually whittling small tiki statues for neighborhood children while in his teens.

“My dad taught me how to sharpen a knife,” Lefner said, “so [to practice] I dulled it up by carving wood and sharpened it all over again.”

Larry Lefner works on "Humingbird Heaven".
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman

Larry Lefner works on “Humingbird Heaven”.

After a stint at Santa Ana College, where he was named a first string All-American water polo player, Lefner studied at San Jose State, where he continued his artistic and athletic careers. After university, Lefner bounced around mountain communities in Aspen, Colorado, Sun Valley, Utah, and Santa Fe, New Mexico, where there was ample supply and demand for his artwork.

Wood carving is no longer a widely prolific medium, and Lefner’s willingness to take on ambitious projects sets him apart.

“A lot of artists don’t do monumental,” Janna Lefner said of her husband’s work. “It’s much more difficult to sculpt things larger than life. The dimension becomes another challenge.”

Lefner, who said he only realized art was his calling after going to college, says carving is the way he expresses himself, his particular brand of creativity. He explained, “There’s lots of ways to serve it up, to get your message across.”

Larry Lefner works on "Humingbird Heaven".
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman

Larry Lefner works on “Humingbird Heaven”.

Hummingbird Haven is absolutely that, standing close to 15 feet tall with the delicate birds encircling it’s girth. But this is Lefner’s wheelhouse, the kind of large project he likes to dive right into, “one chip at a time,” as Janna said.

“The bigger the better,” Lefner agreed.

Lefner predicts the rest of the sculpture will take him another four months or so to complete, depending on whether he and the Hocks decide it should be stained or painted. He hopes to one day open a studio in Santa Barbara.

See lefnerart.com.

The original version of this article was updated on December 12, 2012, to indicate that Larry Lefner's first college was Santa Ana College, not Santa Monica College as was erroneously reported.

Comments

Independent Discussion Guidelines

Maybe they should have hid a telephone antenna in there.

AZ2SB (anonymous profile)
November 23, 2012 at 4:17 p.m. (Suggest removal)

How long until some sourpuss complains?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
November 23, 2012 at 4:23 p.m. (Suggest removal)

did they get coastal commission permission?! we must beat these newcomers into submission!

lovechop (anonymous profile)
November 26, 2012 at 7:43 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I hope this doesn't displace the spotted owl!

rukidding (anonymous profile)
November 28, 2012 at 5:01 a.m. (Suggest removal)

So much negativity. Well I suppose those who can't, criticize those who do. This is a beautiful way to convert a dead tree into a piece of art. I hope that we will be able to see the finished product.

lagringita (anonymous profile)
December 9, 2012 at 11:47 a.m. (Suggest removal)

What negativity?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
December 9, 2012 at 12:27 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"Beat these new comers into submission." That sounds pretty negative to me. There is not one comment about the talent this guy is showing and the art he produces. It is a bit sad to me that people only look for controversy when there is something beautiful in front of them. I am not trying to be combative.

lagringita (anonymous profile)
December 11, 2012 at 2:16 p.m. (Suggest removal)

(This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of use policy.)

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
December 11, 2012 at 2:26 p.m.

Thank you for proving my point Ken.

lagringita (anonymous profile)
December 11, 2012 at 2:46 p.m. (Suggest removal)

You are most welcome and I hope you enjoyed the "controversy" you created.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
December 11, 2012 at 3:12 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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