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Sunday September 25, 2016
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The Creatures of the Lawn



With dry humor, Grabarek is explaining why a rope connects two bushes in her front yard on Virnankay Circle--one sculpted in the likeness of a child, and the other of her dog, Kanga.

Almost two years ago, Grabarek asked a longtime artist friend, Georgia Donovan, to create a topiary that would pay homage to Kanga, her now eleven-year-old German Shepherd-German Pointer mix she adopted from the Humane Society of Huron Valley. She wanted the sculpture to have a ball in its mouth "just like Kanga does most of the time."

Donovan, who combines her art and gardening skills to create whimsical human-like topiaries she calls Cedar sapiens, knew that her first time creating an animal would be a challenge but said she'd give it a try. (She's since created a Loch Ness Monster and exhibited her Cedar sapiens in the Grand Rapids Art Prize competition, near her home in Rockford. She estimates she's done about seventy-five Cedar sapiens installations on Homo sapiens landscapes.)

Donovan began looking for trees at nurseries, waiting for "the ones that spoke to me, the ones with a presence." She eventually found two eastern white cedars, aka arbor vitae, that were perfect to make the Kanga doppelgaenger. She also decided to buy two child-sized ones, in case Grabarek's neighbors were inspired to buy and plant them. Using wire, string, and pruning shears, she set about shaping the trees into their respective identities, a process that took about a week. She charges $100-$300 for each creation (tree included) with an additional fee for delivery and installation.

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