CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. (AP) — Deer skulls, abandoned turtle shells, dried mushrooms and tangled roots — what do all of these things have in common?
They've become art.
Gil Narro Garcia first became dedicated in creating sculptures from nature when he moved to Harpers Ferry, but has been interested in nature since he was a child.
Garcia said his love of natural art stemmed from landscape design, which was a family affair growing up in South Texas.
"My brother Mario and I used to compete with garden scenes in the backyard. ... I think it's in our genes," Garcia said with a smile.
Garcia uses several preservation techniques to bring life to elements that he considers "trash to others" such as broken branches, abandoned exoskeletons and vines. He described one process of using crazy glue to preserve the remains of a dandelion seed after it had blossomed.
"To an ordinary person they're junk, but to me they are beautiful," Garcia said.
In order to find elements of nature, Garcia said he takes walks around the canal and rivers.
"I always take a backpack," he said.
However, while many items are found, there are also a number of natural elements that just make their way to Garcia.
One piece entitled "Trapped x 2" features a bird that flew into Garcia's plate glass window.
Garcia said he dried the skeleton of the bird in a sand band for 12 months and then painted it with a variety of colors and small feathers.
"I couldn't have made it because nature made it, but I transformed it into something else," he said.
Garcia said that many of his sculptures such as "After..." represent a dynamicism of life after death because each element combines to create something new.
Humor is another component of Garcia's work.
In a piece titled "Revealing Your Inner Selfie," Garcia uses a glass to peer into the insides of brightly painted turtle shells.
Yet, while Garcia said his goal is to create art that invokes positive feelings, a few pieces of his work have been interpreted as "scary."
The pieces are part of his five-part sculpture series "Perceptions," which is on display in the Frank Art Center at Shepherd University.
Although two of the pieces have been considered by some as frightening, Garcia said he believes those feelings are due to the message of the work.
"This is such a weird world we are living in, so this is my way of reacting to it," he said.
The Sculptures from Nature art exhibit featuring Garcia's work is located in the Fire Hall Gallery inside the Charles Town visitor's center.
Garcia said he received the opportunity to have a monthlong exhibit by winning the people's choice vote during last year's Artomatic at Jefferson.
The Artomatic at Jefferson, which was held each weekend in October, featured more than 125 artists, according to Garcia.
Garcia said he chose the month of July because it would give him enough time to create new pieces.
"When I can't be out in the garden, I'm in the sculpture studio," he said.
Garcia relocated to Harpers Ferry after spending several years in Arlington, Virginia. He received his doctorate from Georgetown University in language and linguistics and was an education analyst for the United States Board of Education for 43 years until retirement.
Throughout his career, Garcia said he was inspired by the professional gardeners in Washington, D.C.
Information from: The Journal, http://journal-news.net/