My grandfather, John Nelson Dungan, was a great man. He grew up on a citrus ranch in central California, came up to study economics at the University of Oregon, fought in the Navy during World War Two, and returned to the San Joaquin valley to run the family ranch for the rest of his life. In the late 1960's, he worked with Cesar Chavez on behalf of the United Farmworkers' rights, and later testified in front of Robert Kennedy and the Senate Commission as the voice of the Tulare County Farmers Association.
I was only able to spend a decade with him before he passed away, but I still have memories of walking together in the neatly tended orange groves, in a time when you could still clearly see the Sierras in the background not just on a good day, but every day.
Grafting young stock onto old hardy roots is part of the early propagation of the oranges, lemons, and tangerines grown on the farm, but my grandfather also grafted as a hobby. Behind their house was a small, private collection of trees he'd "created." Every day we would pick and then drink up that wonderful juice from the tangerine+grapefruit tree.
I took inspiration from my grandfather for a small series of sculptures in his honor that I'm creating this spring for PDX-CSA. The series is titled "Graft" because it incorporates five different wood varieties into one tree-like form. Like all of my other sculptural work, these compositions are made almost entirely from wood that’s had a previous intent (scraps from other artisans) or lived a previous utilitarian life as a dwelling, a piece of furniture, a toy or utensil, etc. It’s a reminder that as we expand as a culture, it is important to use our natural resources wisely. Even the tiniest bit of wood is important and has a story to tell. This example piece is 11" high and about 3 inches in diameter.