A Chainsaw Sculptor Who Won't 'Cut His Face Off'

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So, there’s this sculptor in Medway. But he doesn’t use the typical tools of his trade.

Standing at the backside of his van, Jesse Green describes the best moment of his day.

“The unlocking of the chainsaws,” he says ceremoniously.

Then he turns, looks me in the eye, and asks, “Ready for my baby?”

Vrooom! He fires it up, and believe me, it’s loud!

Jesse Green, also known as “The Machine” Jesse Green, is a master chainsaw sculptor. He transforms tree stumps and logs into over-sized, cartoonish characters, animals and landmarks. And he’s carving out a nice niche for himself around his hometown and beyond.

The burly, bearded artist wields his 48-inch Big Dog chainsaw with the agility and grace of a Jedi knight. As he swoops the menacing power tool up over his head, a stark black tattoo of a chainsaw peaks through the sleeve of his hoodie.

How many people are that gleeful about their jobs?

It’s pretty clear that the 33-year-old Green is crazy about what he does.

Jesse Green poses with the statue he carved of himself. (Courtesy Jesse Green)
Jesse Green poses with the statue he carved of himself. (Courtesy Jesse Green)

Green remembers when he first fell for chainsaws and wood as a medium 13 years ago, when he was an art major at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

“I saw a log at the time that Dartmouth had just cut down,” he explains, “and there was something about it that made me want to grab it. And I grabbed it, and I put it in my van, and I got sap all over myself, and I went to Home Depot and I bought a chainsaw.

“It was love at first cut,” Green recalls wistfully. The pine yielded like butter. He even relished the smell and feel of sawdust flying up his nose.

Early on, he sliced orphan stumps and logs into exaggerated effigies when he wasn’t working in sales or driving a truck for UPS. Today though, The Machine is in demand.

“Yea, I work off a waiting list now,” he says with an amount of relief and pride in his voice. And he’s carving full-time, charging on average about $1,500 a sculpture. But Green calls his prices flexible, and he likes to donate works, too.

His chunky pieces are cropping up in front of homes and public buildings all over Medway.

A few of his clients gladly agreed to swing by his workshop here to talk to me about their commissions. First, I talked to Mike and Pauline Delginio.

“It’s in front of our yard that we have the mustang and the coyote and we love them dearly. Now everybody knows where we live,” they say, laughing. “Thanks to Jesse.”

The Delginio’s personal landmarks set off a chain reaction. Medway Police Chief Alan Tingley saw the Delginio’s wooden mustang and gave the artist the green light to create an old-fashioned officer for the front of police headquarters.

“He’s about six-foot-tall,” Chief Tingley describes, “he’s painted in a blue uniform jacket, big mustache holding the billy club, big Bobbie-type hat with the gold star on it.”

Green's work guards the Medway Police Station. (Andrea Shea/WBUR)
Green's work guards the Medway Police Station. (Andrea Shea/WBUR)

Next, veterinarian Greg Wolfus got in on the action.

“I knew I wanted something, but I was never knew what exactly it should be,” Woflus recalls. He lives in nearby Shrewsbury. “And it’s sort of like getting a tattoo, you gotta commit, you know?”

Eventually, the vet did.

“I thought, you know what? I should surprise my wife with a giant six-foot chicken because everybody needs a rooster in the yard, you know?”

What about a 10-foot-tall giraffe? Wolfus’ neighbor, a scientist, commissioned one of those. It has a bird on its head.

But one of Green’s most recent works, nearly 10 miles away in Ashland, might just take the cake for unexpected weirdness.

I drove out there with The Machine and he showed me a plumber plunging an exploding toilet. It works thematically, since this 10-foot-tall sculpture sits in front of Eldridge Plumbing and Heating on busy Metcalf Avenue.

“He’s got the bright overalls and a few assorted wrenches and a tool belt," Green explains. "And not saying that this is a commonplace thing with plumbers, but I thought this added to the funniness of it, he’s half bald.”

Green has also scored gigs out-of-state, with commissions from stockbrokers, teachers, even the Princess of Jordan for her wedding. Business is booming, but it’s kind of scary for the artist’s wife, Beth.

One of Green's weirder works shows a plumber dealing with a toilet explosion. (Andrea Shea/WBUR)
One of Green's weirder works shows a plumber dealing with a toilet explosion. (Andrea Shea/WBUR)

“I can’t say that I don’t get nervous when he fires up the chainsaw or breaks out the axe,” she admits, “but I trust him and hopefully he’s not going to cut his face off.”

“I could cut my face off,” her chainsaw wielding husband quickly confers, “So, that’s my priority every time I go at it is, don’t cut your face off.”

But there’s always some blood, Green admitted, from changing chains. His dad keeps them super sharp, and is about to become his son’s full-time assistant.

So, what’s next for The Machine?

A grant-driven, civic-minded project he’s dubbed “Eco-Art Massachusetts.” Soon more sculptures will be dotting public spaces statewide, including a giant Elias Howe, the inventor of the sewing machine, in Spencer.

So keep an eye out. You too might be able to say “take a left at the giant wooden cockatoo” — or something equally bizarre, depending on your taste.


This story originally aired on April 6. It re-aired Dec. 27.

This program aired on April 6, 2010.

Andrea Shea Correspondent, Arts & Culture
Andrea Shea is a correspondent for WBUR's arts & culture reporter.



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