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With his enormous sculpture of a hand emerging from a tree stump, artist Simon O'Rourke gives a "palm tree" a whole new meaning. The piece, called Giant Hand of Vyrnwy, is 50 feet tall and changes right before your eyes. The sculpture's base is a typical tree, but as you look up, it starts to lose its bark, transforms into the arm's smooth skin, and ends with soft creases in the fingers and palm. There's something mythical about this change from rough to smooth—like a giant attempting to land on Earth. The carving of the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy can be found on Wales's tallest tree. 

To be exact, that's what initially granted O'Rourke the opportunity to create the sculpture. The Natural Resource Wales planned to hire an artist to carve the tree, which had been damaged by a storm and was about to be chopped down.

"The idea of carving this enormous and erecting a monument for such a well-known landmark thrilled me greatly," O'Rourke says. "After doing some research, I discovered that the forest where the tree was located was called the Giants of Vyrnwy. After giving it some thought, I decided to use a gigantic hand to represent both the giants and the tree's final attempt to reach the sky.

The correct equipment and a strong work ethic were needed to create such an impressive piece. The artist remembers that "it took two days to erect the scaffold because the terrain was so difficult and it was necessary to make it safe to work on."

Thereafter, six days of hard labour with grinders and chainsaws. The tree wasn't wide enough to form the entire hand, so I had to add two pieces for the thumb and little finger. After the sculpture was finished, O'Rourke covered it with tung oil, a naturally occurring, environmentally safe oil derived from plants.

In addition to being a breathtaking piece of art, O'Rourke learned a lot from the process. “I loved working on the hand sculpture, it reminded me just how small we are compared to some of the living organisms on this planet,” he says. “All in all, a humbling experience!”

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