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Midtown East is bustling with shops, restaurants and, of course, a large new grocery store from up north, but the newest addition to the shopping center evokes the natural world rather than the commercial one. A beautiful, handcrafted tree sculpture from local artist Meleah Gabhart adorns the exterior of Ashley Christensen’s Project Xtra Crispy at its location off of Wake Forest Road.
Gabhart, who uses reclaimed wood to craft her trees, was selected to create the piece by Simon Griffiths, a curator for Midtown East.
Gabhart says she has always considered herself an artist. She used to create trees within countertops and tile on floors but says she grew restless with the sharp, angular results. She turned to wood as a medium in order to produce smoother and more organic pieces.
Her work is mostly custom designed for private homes and she has a few commercial projects in Durham. Gabhart’s first public piece in Raleigh—seven trees with intertwined branches, leaves and roots—is suspended behind the bar at Mordecai Beverage Company in Gateway Plaza.
Gabhart says she feels that trees bring life into spaces, and that all people, no matter the age, gender or occupation, seem to respond affectionately to them. “It’s something that we all have in common, a love for trees,” Gabhart says.
Each of Gabhart’s tree sculptures are designed piece by piece, from the trunks to the leaves. The designs, she says, are often dictated by the grain of the wood she’s using. Along with beautifying Midtown East, the art, Gabhart hopes, will deliver a sense of calm, peace and joy to visitors as they wander from place to place. Regency, the development company behind Midtown East, is commissioning several public art installations created by local artists for the shopping center.
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