Many wood carvers believe there are images buried deep within the wood just waiting to come to life.
Gary Keenan, a chainsaw carver from Des Moines, Iowa, might have to agree, as he has been carving trees into lifelike images for approximately 15 years.
“I chainsaw carve full-time,” he said. “This is mostly what I do — trees in people’s backyards — but I also do the work at several fairs and festivals.”
Keenan spent Wednesday in Hays carving a walnut tree into a Native American at Jeff Luebbers’ home, 109 E. 16th.
Luebbers said he first learned of Keenan and his talents at the Kansas State Fair and decided to finally give him a call when his wife wanted to cut down the walnut tree in their backyard.
“I’m just intrigued by this stuff,” Luebbers said. “My wife thought I was nuts. I said, ‘Well, if you’re going to make me cut this down, I’m keeping part of it.’ ”
Luebbers said he is a Kansas City Chiefs fan, which is a big part of the reason why he wanted a Native American chief carving.
“I just wanted something different, kind of a focal point for the yard,” he said.
Keenan said he always had an appreciation for art, but he liked sculpture the best. Before wood sculpting, he had no prior art experience or training.
“I virtually stumbled into it,” he said of his craft.
He first heard of chainsaw carving at the Iowa State Fair.
“Someone said to me, ‘Hey, you have a chainsaw. Why don’t you give it a try?’ ” Keenan said. “So I did, and I was intrigued by it, and it just took off from there.”
With chainsaws, sanders and other equipment, Keenan now does carvings for customers in several surrounding states.
“I have about six trees to carve in Arkansas coming up,” he said.
Some of his masterpieces include carved Native Americans, bears, birds, flowers, eagles, benches, totems, various people and wildlife.
The talent is something Keenan said he feels always has been within him; it just took him until 15 years ago to discover it.
“I think I was born with it,” he said.
As long as his body can take it, the artist said he will continue his creative carvings.
“Every tree is different and every day is different for me, which I really enjoy,” he said. “I’ll do it as long as I can. It’ll probably kill me, and that’s OK.”
For more information, visit the Carving By Keenan Facebook page or carvingbykeenan.com.