The San Francisco Chronicle Article
                                                                                                        Scrappy forestry sculptor has many irons in the fire
                                                                                                       Artist, 75, displays unique collection at UC Berkeley
                                                                                                               Rick DelVecchio, Chronicle Staff Writer
                                                                                                                         Tuesday, April 4, 2006

                                    Never heard of the Carrington Forestry Sculpture Collection? Almost nobody else has, either. And good luck finding it.
               Its home is a former forestry library at UC Berkeley's research station in Richmond. The space is generous, and definitely quiet, but not exactly easy to get to.Presiding is the self-described renegade sculptor Raymond C. Carrington, a 75-year-old Cal forestry alum and retired high school math teacher. His claim to uniqueness as an artist is that he works mainly in scrap metal from the sawmills he knew as a kid growing up in the Mount Shasta country of Northern California.His art tells the story of the men who cut the trees that built San Francisco. It's a story, Carrington says, Californians need to be reminded of at a time when it's unusual to have rough hands.Rail spikes, saw teeth, mattocks, peaveys, wires, U-bolts, horseshoes, chunks of truck axle, the handle of a whiskey barrel -- out of such stuff Carrington hammers out his art. Sometimes he twists the junk into human or animal figures. The human forms are thick stick men frozen in attitudes of back-bending work.With eyes made of washers and noses made of bolts, they hammer, push, cut and heave with terrific exertion. They strain against iron as full of mass and energy as they are.It's a tug-of-war. Will the men bend the iron, or will the iron bend them?Though Carrington appreciates having a place to display his work within the domain of the state's finest public university, he presides uneasily in his corner. Questions turn over and over in his mind.Isn't the Carrington collection worth a great deal more to the people of California, especially the children, who keenly appreciate the combination of roughness and whimsy that characterizes a Carrington piece? Does the university even know what a treasure it has on its hands?Carrington says more people should be aware, even if they don't fully appreciate, that here in their midst is what may be the largest sculpture collection -- 220 pieces -- in the possession of a university in the United States.And even if it's not the largest sculpture collection, who's to argue that it's not the largest forestry sculpture collection?                                                                          Wiry and relentless, sassy, mountain-bred and without formal training in art, Carrington is an outrider on the art scene and plays the part with a combination of seriousness and comic verve. He doesn't take himself too seriously, but seriously enough never to back off from his two-part dream: to promote sculpture in general and his forestry sculpture specifically.First, Carrington the former teacher believes sculpture can be a learning tool as good as books. He'd like to see more kids exposed to the works of an unschooled artist with an idea in his head, a willingness to learn and no fear of criticism -- an artist like Carrington himself."I'd like to have the kids come look at what one idiot can do with no training in art," Carrington said. "They can probably do it a hundred times better."Second, Carrington dreams of a more visible location in which to display his forestry pieces. He wonders if future generations will even remember what a railroad spike was for."That's a sickle," he said, pointing to one of his sculptures during a recent tour of the collection. "When I show that to people, they have no idea what it was for. Hell, it was used to cut grass around the mill."Carrington is interested in the future of forestry as well as the past. Forestry is still a way of life, though it's more intellectual than it was in the days Carrington depicts in his art."One of my purposes is to further forestry at Cal," Carrington said. "Most people don't know there's forestry at Cal. They think it's 'farms in Berkeley.'"In France, the words forester and forestry are honored," he said. "You use it here, and people associate it with wood butchers, and it's far from the truth. If there weren't foresters, there wouldn't be any forests as we have now. They'd all be gone."John Battles, co-director of Cal's Center for Forestry, has been observing Carrington and his art for some time. "Ray sucks you in," he noted the other day. "He can be a pest, but he's well intentioned and enthusiastic. I've seen him suck people into his dream."Battles said the collection's venue is much less a gallery than a storage space where interested people can get a look at the work. He said the College of Natural Resources hopes to loan more pieces for display in forestry offices and schools."Ideally, these would be out somewhere where people can see them," he said.Carrington got his first forestry job as a boy in 1944, fighting fires. He got a forestry degree at UC Berkeley in 1953 and worked in sales for a forest products company.He began collecting logging and railroad junk as mementoes. Then he taught himself welding and started making sculptures, never quite sure how things would turn out. He got better at it and more ambitious after retiring from teaching in 1994.He formed a nonprofit foundation, the Carrington Foundation for Public Art, to try to get more youth involved in sculpture and promote public sculpture. And he got bolder about trying to get his work into galleries, unbowed by rejection.Carrington lets his imagination run when he's in the process of creation.Of a figure crossing a bridge, he confessed: "I have no idea why I did that."Carrington vows to continue sculpting, no matter what. He has enough railroad spikes on hand for another, he estimates, 300 pieces."I don't have that much talent," he said. "I just work hard."                                                           If you go
Visits to the Carrington Forestry Sculpture Collection should be arranged through the artist and curator, Ray Carrington. He can be contacted by e-mail at, or by fax at (510) 643-3490. Images of items in the collection can be viewed online at More information on Carrington and his work is available online at www.carringtonfoundation.netE-mail Rick DelVecchio at B - 1