Glen Arbor garden bears

By Sarah Bearup-Neal
Sun contributor

Two bears walk into a Glen Arbor Township garden. No joke. How does that work?

It works when a patron of the arts makes a gift of a limestone sculpture to the community. The patron wishes to remain anonymous. The artist is Gert Olsen of Jupiter, Fla. And the sculpture, titled “Father and Son,” is a modernist take on a locally iconic subject: an adult bear and cub.

Adding public art to the garden was a concept that hadn’t been discussed by the Glen Arbor Township Board, said Supervisor John Soderholm. It became a blip on the board’s collective radar when a local resident proposed the idea last spring.

“It seemed to be a thematically appropriate piece that would complement the (Lake Street) garden,” Solderholm said.

Olsen, who drove “Father and Son” north to the garden in July, began carving bears from wood in the 1970s—an outgrowth of 17 years creating cabinetry for a living. He transitioned to stone, all of which he handpicks from quarries and stone yards throughout the United States and Europe, the continent of his birth. This native Dane/now-naturalized Floridian cuts and shapes the stone using diamond saws and power sanders. The finishing touches are executed by hand with chisels and files. His work is exhibited in galleries throughout the United States, and is contained in private collections in Europe and Japan.

Olsen’s Glen Arbor bears are minimalist, although one would have no difficulty reading the stone shapes as a pair ‘o bears. Yet, the artist’s execution of the subject leaves a lot of room for each viewer’s imagination to fill in the details. He doesn’t strive for taxidermied fidelity.

“If I intend to compete with the gods,” Olsen said, “then I always come out in second place.”