One of our nation’s quirky roadside attractions has soul. Mysterious faces, called Tree Spirits, are carved into live oaks and hardwoods throughout Saint Simons Island off the Georgia coast.
In 1982, local sculptor Keith Jennings carved his first Tree Spirit with hand tools in a backyard tree. “I had too much time and too little money,” Jennings said of his motivation.
Admire how Jennings uses gouges and a mallet to shape haunting, often contemplative features from knots in trees or arching branches. He creates Tree Spirits by hand in two to four days.
Legend promotes that these faces represent sailors lost at sea. Not so, says Jennings. He works with each tree’s soul. “The trees do it all.” Jennings said. “I don’t have that much to do with it. The wood speaks to you, ya know?”
“I like the way they age as they get older,” he said. “The bark starts rolling over the edges and gives each one a spooky, eerie appearance.”
There are 20 Tree Spirits commissioned on St. Simons Island. Five are in public areas along Demere Road, Mallory Street, Redfern Village and Frederica Road. The others are on private property.
To view photos of Keith Jennings’ Tree Spirits, visit his website at treespirits.net.