ArtPrize 2017

Using colored pencil and translucent pigment, Denna used the natural wood grain of this 88-year old ash tree to shape a menagerie of Michigan's woodland wildlife. Can you find all 34 species? Enter to win an original piece! 

Local woodworkers Ed DeNave and Randy Beute collaborated with Denna to execute her vision for the table. More of Denna’s original furniture pieces can be found at the Richard App Gallery at 910 Cherry St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506.


wood you rather be a flower?

colored pencil and pigment on ash

Using a combination of translucent pigment and colored pencil, Denna has illustrated this 88-year-old Michigan native ash tree back into its natural habitat. She uses the natural curves of the wood grain to shape a menagerie of woodland wildlife, including the ash borer beetle who is responsible for digging the channels seen around the edges of the table.

Renewed Purpose: The Story of an Ash Tree

Written by Sami Marie Arnold

Leaves casting shadows to the creatures that roamed the woodland floor, I once stood tall and proud above all else in the forest. My bark strong and ridged, my branches held up an entire world—I was an ancient watchman for all things big and small.

But, not any more.

I remember the breeze as it rippled through my leaves, gently combing the seeds I had so delicately nurtured throughout the spring.  I remember the families of squirrels and birds that took refuge among my arbor, and how they gave me purpose and fulfillment.

But, not any more.

It was my fault, it was in my nature to welcome any who needed rest. Was it my fault?

The emerald ash borer beetle said he needed a place to stay, and that my bark and branches were perfect for his family.

But my bark begin to strip. I felt weak. My leaves began to crumble before my eyes, no longer capturing light. I asked the beetle what was happening, but it was too late.

They had moved on to my cousins, my brothers and sisters. My friends. The beetles had killed them all. The forest was nearly silent.

I was alone, and dying.

The animals stopped coming. My leaves and branches were no longer nurturing, but poisonous and hazardous.

So, there I stood, waiting to die.

But then, one day, several humans came into the forest and cut me down. It didn’t hurt, not compared to what had already happened beneath my bark and in my cambium. I thought that was the end. I was going to be repurposed. I was going to move on from this place.

I was wrong.

A beautiful thing happened. I was put into the hands of an artist, who saw my pain, who saw my story within my wood grain.

“I want to honor you,” she said. “Let’s put you back where you belong.”

So, she began to paint.

As the pigment stained the surface, I began to recognize my woodland home.

The feathers of blue jays that once chirped in their nests. Flowers that once surrounded the base of my trunk and the trunks of my family. A river that once sat before me and gave me plenty to drink.

I was home.

The scars from the emerald ash borer beetle etched into my sides, the artist soothed them with her paints and colors. She highlighted them, making them beautiful for all to see.

I may not have my family or friends. But, as I stand before you today in different form, still surrounded by home, I hope to soon become a part of your family. Surround me with your children, your friends and neighbors.

Give me purpose again.