How "Sculpture Saves the Trees" - September 23rd, OP Main Library


By Debby Preiser

Margot McMahon Tells How "Sculpture Saves the Trees" Sept.23 at Library:  Ten sculptors including Margot McMahon of Oak Park worked through Chicago Sculpture International and teamed with the Chicago Park District to keep dead trees from being removed by sculpting them.   McMahon carved and painted 13 flying song birds and an owl from a 200-year old tree that toppled in a wind storm in her back yard on Humprey Avenue. These birds now perch on her Jackson Park Tree along Lake Shore Drive south of 57th Street to remind commuters to reduce their carbon footprint. Meet sculptor Margot McMahon and see the birds she carved that are now part of this innovative project on Tuesday, Sept. 23, at 7 p.m. at the Oak Park Public Library.

These sculptures are supported by Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and the City of Chicago to give focus to the number of trees that will die over the next few years.  10,000 ash trees alone are predicted  to die and possibly 90,000 trees of all species will stop exchanging CO2 and offering us a canopy of shade.  Replacement trees are fast and furiously being planted, but they are still young.

Margot flock best_edited-1

Margot flock best_edited-1

“Climate change, stressed parkway trees, drought, volatile weather and wind are causing an unprecedented number of trees to die when we need them the most to heal the earth,” says McMahon.  “The dead trees provide a habitat for insects which feed animals and birds, opportunities for nesting sites and a breakdown of organic matter to encourage fungus and mushroom growth.  This slow decay of the trees is an important aspect of our urban ecology.  The sculptures adorning the trees allow the trees a natural progression of receding into the earth, feeding it as it decays.”

A lifelong environmentalist, McMahon views the human form as one with nature and creates symbols of this concept. Public sculpture commissions and museum and gallery exhibitions have been the core of Margot's work as an artist. She has exhibited her drawings and sculptures in Chicago, New York, Washington DC, Sante Fe, Cincinnati and Connecticut. The Smithsonian, The Museum of Contemporary Art, The Chicago Historical Society, the Chicago Horticultural Society and Botanic Gardens, and Yale University have her sculptures in their collections.

Margot earned an MFA from Yale University then taught sculpture and drawing at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, DePaul University and Yale University’s Norfolk Summer School as well as Oak Park's District 97. Margot has created documentary movies to explain and share the insights she has gained from her background and explorations in art.

To learn more about Margot McMahon and her work, see