PORTAGE PARK — The dogs who trotted through the off-leash area of Portage Park since Friday got to meet a new companion, made entirely out of wood.
Northwest Side woodcarver J.R. Cadawas carved the face of his own pet rottweiler into a tree at the center of the dog park as part of the tree's four-day transformation into an intricate 10-foot art installation.
Cadawas spent more than a decade carving and engraving thousands of surfaces all over the city, from trophies and church friezes to oranges in his own kitchen. His Old Irving Park neighbor and business partner, Stephen Marks, reached out to the Chicago Park District last month to offer his services, Marks said.
"We showed the Park District his work and they were very interested, but we selected that Portage Park tree because it's in our neighborhood, and J.R. is a dog lover," Marks said.
Cadawas first took a chainsaw to the tree, then used a chisel to sculpt the likenesses of his three dogs, he said. He filled out the rest of the structure with flowing flower and leaf patterns.
"A lot of people carve human figures, but dogs can be harder," Cadawas said. "But my dogs are like statues — they're like their own monuments."
Cadawas is in talks with city park officials to turn more trees into three-dimensional art, he said.
In the meantime, he's planning on holding engraving classes to teach would-be carvers his craft — using fruits and vegetables as canvases, he said.
"If it exists in land, air or sea, you can carve it," Cadawas said.