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A specially designed wall space in SAMC's Heart & Vascular Center lobby demanded an impressive piece of artwork2461TreeSculpture310x153. Sculptor Chris Ellis diagnosed the situation and found the perfect solution.

When Birmingham sculptor Chris Ellis was first approached about doing a large sculpture for SAMC's newest public lobby, he thought about the emotional connotations of the heart and how man seeks solace in times of pain.

He settled on a tree because it provides shelter, warmth and food, and also symbolizes life. Chris added what he calls a "mama bird" and her nest to the piece, because the Heart & Vascular lobby also serves the Women's Center.

The 14-by-13-foot tree, made of 16- and 18-gauge sheet metal, is impressive.

"It's massive," said Ellis, who was born at SAMC but grew up in Birmingham. "The wall it was built for has a lot of vertical space, so I worried about the wall dwarfing the piece. I was originally going for something more abstract, but I like that it is a tree and the bird is tied to new life. I really like the way it came out."

This is the largest piece Ellis has ever created. 2453HVTreeInstallation310x153The piece consists of a large trunk and about two dozen leaves which he intricately positioned on the wall.

Ellis has been working with metal since 2000, favoring the medium because of its organic quality and the patina it forms. To obtain color he uses chemicals to rust the metal. He believes objects exposed to the elements from decades of use develop character. Nature and time are friends.

He especially likes using sheet metal because it is palpable.020TreeSculptureWorkInProgress310x153 "You can twist and turn it around to get the different shapes. It's all raw metal which goes through a process to give it a vintage look."

Ellis used rubber car belts to get the curved shapes he wanted. Next, the tree was spray painted, sanded and chemically treated to achieve an aged effect. He then applied wood stain to enhance the aging appearance and unify the colors. The tree was clear coated with a satin enamel.

Other pieces by the artist hang in Birmingham's Brookwood Medical Center, the Matt Jones Gallery in Birmingham and the Rymer Gallery in Nashville. SAMC is proud to house this work of art by Chris Ellis.

To find out more about the artist and his work, visit his website at www.sweatshopmetalworks.com