Man creates art from dead trees

Richard L. Gonzales carves a sculpture of a family of bears out of a tree stump at the Pow Wow Inn in Tucumcari. (Freedom Newspapers: William Thompson)

By William Thompson: Freedom Newspapers

TUCUMCARI — There used to be three large tree stumps in the Pow Wow Inn’s courtyard near the swimming pool. Now, thanks to Las Cruces artist Richard L. Gonzales, a large head of an American Indian chief, a family of bears and two American Indians adorn the courtyard.

Gonzales, using a small electric cutting tool, has transformed the three large stumps into art.

“Mostly what I do is on private property in public view,” Gonzales said. “I’ve carved 41 tree stumps in Las Cruces.

The art reflects New Mexican culture and in some areas Gonzalez said his pieces have become landmarks.

“The Southwest is my main theme but I can carve anything. I carved a 6-foot tall eagle in a Las Cruces Park. People in Las Cruces use my works as landmarks when giving directions,” he said.

Alfred Lucero, general manager of the Pow Wow, said the inn’s owners saw pictures of Gonzales’ work and decided to let him have a shot at the stumps.

“All three owners are happy with the work he has done,” Lucero said. “All our guests have really enjoyed seeing him work. One man spent an hour and a half watching him carve.”

Gonzales charges $120 per foot of height to carve a tree stump. He was not sure what kind of monetary value he could put on the finished works because they are rooted in the ground.

“I figure that by the time I die, they’ll be worth a lot of money, “Gonzales said. “Right now I take pictures of the works to prospective customers and I can set a price by the number of works I’ve already done. The three works here at the Pow Wow are numbered 159, 160 and 161.

Gonzales carved his first tree stump in Tucumcari back in 1992.

“My brother asked me to carve a tree stump in his yard and I’ve been carving tree stumps ever since.”