Woodworker donates Burning Man sculptures for display at Lake Tahoe
A former Heavenly Mountain Resort exec found a second career as a woodworker — and his latest pieces are now featured prominently along Lake Tahoe Boulevard.
After their debut at Burning Man this year, three large wooden sculptures made by South Lake Tahoe artist Malcolm Tibbetts are on display in front of Tahoe Mountain Lab in South Lake Tahoe’s Midtown.
Known at the Tahoe Turner, Tibbetts has been working with wood his whole life. But after 32 years with Heavenly, Tibbetts left his position as vice president of operations and turned his passion for “wood turning” into a full-time pursuit.
“Some people think you bend the wood, but there is no bending. It involves a little bit of math, calculating angles and a lot of cutting what we call miter joints,” explained Tibbetts. “The pieces outside (Tahoe Mountain Lab) are segmented. They are thousands of pieces of wood glued together, put on a lathe, which spins the wood as you shape it with tools.”
Tibbetts creates abstract art, furniture, vessels and statement pieces made from a combination of domestic and exotic woods.
“Trying to make a statement with art is not easy. It can be pretty obscure, so sometimes you need to give it an effective title to give people a little nudge to know what you’re saying,” said Tibbetts, who finds inspiration for pieces in music lyrics, politics and social issues.
One such piece is titled “Rocky Road Ahead.”
“It’s a giant ice cream cone with a lump of ice cream in the shape of the earth, and the polar caps are dripping all over the ground,” explained Tibbetts. “That’s pretty clear.”
The three redwood sculptures on display in South Lake Tahoe are what are known as “orderly tangles.”
“An orderly tangle is a configuration of like shapes that can only go together one way. It’s a puzzle to build,” explained Tibbetts. The sculpture on the far left is made of four triangles; the middle, six squares; and the far right, 12 pentagons. They range in size from 4.5 to 6 feet in diameter.
The sculptures are actually pieces from a much larger installation called “A Woodturner’s Dream,” which Tibbetts collaborated on with his son Andy for Burning Man this year.
The original installation was a 35-foot-tall steel tripod from which the father and son duo hung a giant mobile with six wooden pieces hanging from it. The other three wooden sculptures sat on poles along the sides of the exhibit.
“It’s kind of a sad story. The whole installation was severely damaged due to vandalism, but those three pieces I was able to bring home,” said Tibbetts.
It was the first time Tibbetts had contributed work to the festival, but his second time to attend. Andy, a civil engineer and welder, has created numerous pieces for the festival over the years. Most recently he helped bring the stained glass piece called “The Space Whale” to life. It’s now on display in downtown Reno.
And for the foreseeable future, Tibbetts’ work will remain on display outside the Mountain Lab — another win for the rapidly developing Harrison Avenue.
To see more of Tibbetts’ work, visit http://www.tahoeturner.com.