Tucson Oddity: Carver shapes his vision from Fourth Ave. stumps

2011-09-05T00:00:00Z 2014-09-01T17:13:32Z Tucson Oddity: Carver shapes his vision from Fourth Ave. stumpsVeronica M. Cruz Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
September 05, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Two tree stumps on North Fourth Avenue have been given new life over the years by artistically inclined people.

The stumps, which stand in front of a house on North Fourth Avenue near Fourth Street, were left behind when the trees were cut down because they threatened the trolley power lines several years ago, said Ronald Johnson Jr., whose father bought the house three years ago.

Before the Johnsons took over the home, it was a storefront for a vintage clothing store called Blast.

About eight years ago, Stephen Arnett, a carpenter and landscaper who was homeless at the time, helped the store's owner with some projects in exchange for a place to stay.

Arnett, also known as Chainsaw Steve, specializes in on-site wood carvings, and he whittled down the stumps to what remains today - a rainbow-colored mushroom and a man and woman standing atop butterflies and holding up the Earth.

Arnett's wife, Judy, who passed away seven years ago, also helped with sanding and carving.

"It's kind of a nice memorial for me," Arnett said of the sculptures.

Originally, Arnett made the taller statue to look like Blast's logo, with a girl riding on a rocket, but he had to change the design after the city disapproved.

"I had to rescue it as much as I could, and the rocket turned into butterflies," Arnett said. "It's my angels carrying the Earth to a better place by four butterflies."

Arnett said the mushroom, "Boomer," has been the target of many vandals.

"Once, we put a video camera out there and watched college kids try and steal the mushroom," he said.

Johnson, a jewelry manufacturer, who splits his time between the house on Fourth Avenue and Mexico, has helped maintain the carvings since moving in. He's plugged up some of the holes caused by termites and added colorful coats of paint.

He even has plans to add on to Arnett's work by installing a painted saguaro skeleton and illuminating it with solar-powered lights.

"I want to make it a real icon," Johnson said.

Contact Veronica Cruz at vcruz@azstarnet.com or 573-4203.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Activate

Follow the Arizona Daily Star

Get weekly ads via e-mail