There’s something about the shock of red in a forest that makes it ethereal and otherworldly. That’s part of Finnish artist Lea Turto’s point. In 2005, she covered a series of tree stumps in Helsinki’s central park with red felt in order to highlight and celebrate their natural forms. The piece is called The Sacred Realm of the Forest Elf, in deference to an old Finnish word and spirit: Hiisi.

Lea Turto, The Sacred Realm of the Forest Elf, helsinki environmental art

The word Hiisi has meant a variety of things: a scared grove of trees, a place between worlds, a guardian spirit or goblin. In all of its incarnations, however, it denotes a connection to the natural world that has faded from modern culture. The tree stumps, as amputated natural forms, serve as excellent reminders of this lost culture.

The felt is held in place with upholstery tacks and in some places is decorated with ribbons. Interrupting the landscape, the felt’s bright color is intended to accentuate forms we might have otherwise overlooked. In this manner, tree stumps become things of wonder: mystical objects with forms demanding of contemplation.