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Art with a bittersweet twist: Couple turn a pesky vine into sculptures

Bethesda couple Seth Goldstein and Paula Stone started building sculptures out of the invasive Oriental Bittersweet vine in 2008. The sculptures have been exhibited at Brookside Gardens and the Nature Conservancy headquarters.

Deep in Cabin John, they find their prey. "Could be the neck or body of our next brontosaurus," Goldstein says excitedly. The couple dabble in abstract sculptures but specialize in whimsical pieces that resemble other life forms -- dinosaurs, insects, camels, cowboys, seals and such, often with cheeky names, all crafted from the weeds they gather in the wilds of suburbia. (Expect to see a cow added to their menagerie soon, possibly bearing the name Bo-vine.)

Some of their work is on display at Brookside Gardens in Silver Spring, and one of their pieces can be seen in an outdoor sculpture show in Foggy Bottom, at 835 25th St. NW, through Oct. 23.

Stone and Goldstein learned recently that one of their favorite pieces -- "Wheedle Dee," which might or might not resemble a robot crab with ears -- was accepted by the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore for an upcoming exhibit, "What Makes Us Smile."

But right now, they're out in a steamy section of parkland, hunting and gathering and hoping they can avoid ticks and poison ivy.

"The art is the least of it," Stone says. "Cutting the vines is one task, and that's hard work. Then we have to schlep this stuff out of here and fit it in the Prius."

"Normal sculptors would just go to the store, I think," Goldstein says. "I guess we're not normal."

So here they are, looking for killer pieces of a killer vine, all in the name of art.

"Look at that helix!" Goldstein says. "That's an incredible piece of vine."

You see a coil. Goldstein sees an animal's belly.

You see a multi-pronged piece of wood. Stone sees a squid.

"Honey, here's a really nice piece," she shouts.

"You might say we don't get out enough," Goldstein says, laughing as the couple trudges deeper into the woods.

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