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Fe Fi Fo Fum: Giants move into Bernheim Forest

By Amy Joseph Landon

Source: The Kentucky Standard
By Kacie Goode
March 2, 2019

“If you love the forest, the trolls will protect you, if not they will grab you, catch you and trap you.”


Giants are lurking in Bernheim Forest and their presence sets out to inspire an international connection with nature.

In celebration of Bernheim’s 90th anniversary, a new art installation called Forest Giants in a Giant Forest is showing off the work of Danish artist Thomas Dambo who, with his team, has spent the last few weeks constructing the large creatures from recycled wood materials, much of which came from the local area.

“I want them to remember how big and beautiful the nature around here in Bernheim Arboretum is,” Dambo said of what he hopes people will think when they see his creatures. “When they dive a little bit closer into the story, I want them to understand that this is all made of trash, but that trash can be so big and so beautiful.”

Bernheim alluded to the creation of the giants several weeks ago, and many have followed the progress on Facebook waiting for their official arrival. On Wednesday, some received a look at the first completed giant, which Dambo calls Little Nis.

“We came out here to see this guy. We were really excited to hear they had finished one,” said Erin Warmbier, of Louisville, who had been following the project’s announcement on social media. “I love it. I think it’s really cool and it’s everything I had hoped it would be.”

Warmbier brought her five children, Aiven, Ezra, Margot, June and Penny, to see the sculpture, and they ran around the creature’s arms and feet. Warmbier said she likes that much of the art incorporated into Bernheim invites interaction.

“That is definitely a bonus in having active, playful children in a place like this, where they can engage with it,” she said.

Warmbier and other families made the trip out to Bernheim Wednesday with the intent of seeing the sculptures, and forest officials hope others will do the same, in addition to the visitors who stumble upon the creations by accident.

The trio of giants is not alone in the world. The three at Bernheim are part of an “international fairy tale” about mankind’s struggle with coexistence, Dambo said.

Dambo’s creations, which are also called trolls in his projects, can be found in various places around the world. He has constructed more than three dozen in places such as The Morton Arboretum in Chicago, as well as The Great Smoky Mountains, Copenhagen and South Korea. He recently returned from Puerto Rico, where he has been working to rebuild Hector El Protector, one of his earlier sculptures destroyed by Hurricane Maria. When Dambo leaves Kentucky, he will head to Belgium and then to China to create more.

Dambo was inspired to create the giants from the stories he loved as a child.

“I come from Copenhagen in Denmark and we have a long, strong culture of folklore stories and Nordic mythology,” many of which include trolls, he said. “All these fairy tales and type of adventures, I always liked these things as a kid.”

The trolls and giants in the stories could be good or bad, Dambo said, “depending on how the humans behave.”

Dambo also comes from a background in graffiti and street art and is used to incorporating the landscape into his designs. Little Nis, for example, sits at the edge of the pond on Two Ponds Loop and appears to be looking at his reflection in the water.

In addition to using the sculptures to inspire a connection with nature, preservation and sustainability, Dambo hopes to also inspire people to awaken their curiosity of the world around them.

“I think a lot of us are stuck inside the urban jungle and we never leave that,” he said. People often find themselves confined to a triangle where they go from work to the shopping mall to home. “And if we leave the confinements of the triangle, it is to go on vacation and then we believe we have to go all the way to another place to see something new.”

But that isn’t reality, he said. Beauty, excitement and adventure can be found at home.

“We just never look on the other side of the fence or go a little bit deeper into the forest. We always stay on the path and in our routines,” he said. “I hope my trolls can help people come on this journey where they can find something new and they can see something different.”

Visit thomasdambo.com to learn more about his work as well as other troll and giant creations and the narratives provided for each. Follow Bernheim at www.bernheim.org for upcoming events and announcements regarding the forest.

Bernheim officials anticipate the giants to be in place for at least three years and they will be incorporated into future programs. While one giant was finished Wednesday, the other two are well on their way to completion. When visiting, the public is asked to treat the creatures with care.

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