Westbrook Middle School in Portland, Maine, sits on the site of the Oxford-Cumberland canal, where trees were once logged and transported to the ocean. To create RE:TURN, a sculpture that represents a tree from an old-growth forest, artist Aaron Stephan used some of the logs—now over 500 years old—that sank along the canal during transportation. Stephan repurposed and shaped the logs to form the tree, which appears to rise out of the school’s floor toward the skylights overhead. The tree measures 25 feet high and 16 feet wide (branch to branch) and consists of about 100 individual pieces of reclaimed wood. The use of reclaimed natural materials matches the school’s environmentally friendly geothermal technology. RE:turn speaks both to environmental preservation and to Westbrook’s history as a lumber and paper hub.
It took Stephan a year to complete the sculpture, which was installed at the school in early December 2010. Stephan lives in Portland.