Bernheim Nest

The Bernheim Nest is up!

I started the residency at the beginning of October 2011. I knew I wanted to work with the idea of human nests and played with a few ideas before settling on a hornet-inspired design. I set the limitation of using only found materials and tools I already owned.

I wanted the material of the nest to be similar to paper, like a hornet’s nest, and decided on corrugated cardboard boxes. I found most of what I needed (after a few weeks a much searching) at Dine restaurant store off Preston in Louisville.

I began to cut and stack the cardboard with a loose plan in my head of how it would all work out. About 2 months later I had my completed form with bed, window, lights and shelves in the inside. The shape conforms to the shape of my back when I sit up.

Upon my return from the holiday break, I decided to use aluminum cans to cover the exterior of the nest to make it waterproof. I spent the next 2 months cutting and cleaning approximately 2,000 soda and beer cans and tucking and folding them into the cardboard layers like shingles.

The aluminum cans proved slippery and not very secure so my final touch was to use clear packing tape to adhere the entire outer shell together. It was ready for install.

I coordinated with the horticulture crew at Bernheim and selected a Sawtooth Oak just off the main loop that stands next to the Big Prairie. On Monday February 27th, with the assistance of Robert Rollins and Greenhaven Treecare, the nest was installed.

The Bernheim operations crew helped lift the nest and carry out of the Lakeside Studio and onto a trailer where is was place just below the Oak tree. Then Robert, Patti, and Korry from Greenhaven used their crane to strap and hoist the nest into the branches.

They had to trim some dead limbs and make a lot of adjustments to make the nest level. The process took all day. We even had to bring the nest back down to the ground and rework the straps so the nest would be suspended level. Finally the nest was in place and secured with ropes so I could crawl up inside and secure the nest to the tree form the inside.

Even Robert got up in the tree at the end to detach the crane from the nest. I owe Robert and Patti a huge thanks for taking on the challenge of putting the nest safely in the tree!

When we were done and collecting the tools, Jacob Trader a Greenhaven employee, crawled into the nest and tested it out. He’s a much bigger guy than me. After the crew from Greenhaven had left and I was looking at the nest I noticed it was sagging a little in the middle. I’m not blaming anyone…but it actually looks more secure and is settling nicely in its new home.

That afternoon I climbed up the limbs and crawled into the nest to add the door and some other final touches. I also took some pictures from the views out the various windows and peek-holes.

Now all that is left is for me to spend the night in the nest and to make sure it functions well and stays dry and critter-free.

Thanks so much to Mark Wourms, Martha Winans Slaughter and all the members and staff at Bernheim who make it possible for artists to create and visitors to enjoy art in nature. It’s been an incredible 5 months!