Mark Lindquist History





Birth of Project

To Blakely
Team Blakely
Building Bridges
Knowing Blakely
Studying Tree
Show Begins
Digging Deep
Main Event
Tree Character

Super Ax
 Film Perspective
Trust Vision
Last Day

Studio Life
Winding Down
30K View





The Blakely Burl Tree Project: The Story

The Blakely Burl Tree Project:
From The Ground Up

by Terry Martin



Sunday morning Im driving to the mill with Ken and Greg. Its been hard to find time with them because their work is so intense that it tends to isolate them. Filming is a continuous process and when your eye is clamped to a camera viewfinder for hours at a time, or you are concentrating on holding the sound boom just out of view like Ken does, it is hard to indulge in conversation. Also, during breaks at the tree site they often disappeared to film interviews with local people and to capture locations around Early County as background material. Now, as we drive along narrow winding roads through fields of unharvested cotton, I listen to them talk about the quiet landscape.

Greg Andracke filming the action at the sawmill, Blakely Burl Tree Project.
Photo: Terry Martin

Ken and Greg are both New Yorkers and their conversation tends to abrupt repartee, pretend-aggression and an air of worldly weariness. I cant imagine a bigger contrast with the gently-paced manner of the Georgians we are among. Its hard to impress New Yorkers, but after watching them work for a week, I can see that they love this project.

Ken explains what it was like when they first arrived: Im a big-city guy with minimal knowledge of rural America and agricultural communities, and it was really like being in a foreign country. Fortunately we speak the same languagemore or less. Occasionally I cant understand what somebody is saying and recently when I look at the footage weve taken the thought has crossed my mind that we might have to use subtitles! But Ive been really charmed by how well theyve treated us. I cant help thinking about the second night we were in Blakely when Stanley was saying grace before a meal. He said, We thank you Lord for bringing these high-caliber people to our little town. That kind of respect is pretty nice.

Greg agrees: You know, as a New Yorker I always have a bias about New York being the best place in the world. But in Georgia the people welcomed us so warmly and when you see how supportive they are, you cant help but think these are really fine people. Take Steve Cross for example. When I first met him, I thought he was speaking another language, but once I began to understand him, I found a man who is brilliant. That saw of his, if it was packaged up all slick it could probably be sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars, but he put it together with his own ingenuity.

Greg Andracke (left) discusses the angle and direction of the shot with Gary Stevens
Photo: Mark Lindquist
I ask them how they came to be involved in the BBTP and Ken tells me how he started filming studio potters about ten years before. I found the people had a certain glow and humor, a kind of magnetic quality, and they all seemed to have many friends and collectors. I loved their world and Ive continued making films like that. I met Mark last year when we made the film about the Icons exhibition in Chicago that involved Mark and Gary. When Mark contacted me about this Project, the pictures he sent me were very intriguing. The tree had a real mystique about it, almost a mythic quality. I almost felt there was some spirit in this tree that was calling out to people and I suppose I was one of them!
Greg is new to this world of wood art and its a radical change from his recent work in Afghanistan, filming for a major television network. He has already told us about his experiences around the world, so I ask how he came to be here in this quiet place. I heard about the BBTP from Ken, he says. I didnt even know what a burl was, then I saw the photographs of this gigantic tree in Blakely, and the plan to take it down and turn it into works of art. I was really jazzed up because in my career Ive worked on everything from the Popes and their art, to covering wars and mayhem. Somehow in my later years Ive come to like covering art much more than mayhem.

Greg Andracke filming the fresh cut Blakely Burl Tree log.
Photo: John McFadden

Were lucky, says Ken. Gregs very difficult to book. I was actually shocked when he said hed take this project on. Ive been trying to get him for a long project for at least a dozen years, and this is the first time hes agreed. Thats another thing that makes me feel this tree was exerting some kind of magnetism on people, even a guy like Greg who gets called by network news and big documentary producers.
I ask them what it has been like for them working on the Project. Ken laughs: Lets face it, we started out as a couple of New Yorkers with chips on our shoulders. But weve been having such a great time and the work has been fascinating. At one point Greg said to me, I want to be sure all this footage is saved because I think Im doing some of the best work Ive ever done in my life. Thats pretty impressive from someone with Gregs experience.

Ken Browne "riding the carriage" to get a closeup shot of the sawing.
Photo: John McFadden

When I ask them about the days spent cutting the tree down, Ken says: I got such a kick when Mark showed his cutting plan to the tree crew on the first day. They clearly hadnt expected that. I suppose its usually just one-two-three and off they go with the wood, but his plan was so meticulously done that they realized they were dealing with somebody who knew exactly where he wanted that tree cut. Also, Mark told them, None of this tree is to be lost, we want every last shred of it. Ill never forget when Mark was finished and Jim Carver, the local contractor, turned to the crew and said, I want everybody to take their thinking caps off and put their following-order caps on! Weve never done anything like this before, so if anyone has any doubt whatsoever about what to do, they have to ask Mark. And it worked because a really disparate group of contractors and machine operators and farmers all cooperated so well. If you stepped back to look at what we were doing you could say it was the strangest thing, but I believe they were all pulled into the energy that surrounded that tree. It showed me how much people are drawn to a dream.

Ken Browne (left), Mark Lindquist, Greg Andracke (right) discussing the filming.
Photo: Terry Martin

Introduction | The Story | The Tree | The Artwork | Team | NewsFilm | Sawmill | Location | Rice Foundation