Danish recycling artist and climate activist Thomas Dambo is invading the United States with his monumental troll sculptures. Together with 22 troll builders, Dambo has spent the summer creating 10 sculptures that stretch from the East Coast to the West Coast. His U.S. tour, titled Way of the Bird King is using over 1,000 discarded palettes to create these magical woodland creatures.
“It has always been a dream of mine to go on a coast-to-coast road trip, especially since my days as a rapper touring around Denmark in a big bus,” says Dambo. “So, in a way, this feels like my big American breakthrough. My hope is that these sculptures will not only showcase the beauty of repurposed materials but also inspire people to reconnect with nature, spark their imagination, and foster a greater sense of environmental responsibility.”
Starting in New Jersey and finishing in Washington state, Way of the Bird King continues Dambo's mission to use recycled materials to tell a story of honoring nature and protecting land and waterways. Along with the installations, Dambo has also been hosting talks, birdhouse workshops, and other events to involve the local community.
The Pacific Northwest is particularly represented on the tour, with one sculpture going up in Portland, Oregon, and five others scattered across Western Washington. These Northwest Trolls were organized by the Scan Design Foundation, which aims to support relations between Denmark and the United States.
The organization connected Dambo with members of the Muckleshoot and Snoqualmie tribes, as his trolls are set on their traditional territories. Together, they worked to ensure that these installations would respect Indigenous traditions. Dambo worked closely with Muckleshoot tribal member and artist John Halliday, known as Coyote, on the Northwest part of the tour.
Coyote even traveled to Denmark as part of an exchange to spend time with Dambo and his building crew and will paint a flute that is part of the troll going up in West Seattle. “Dambo brings messages to the world about taking care of our planet and not being wasteful,” Coyote says. “Our tribe embraces the same values, so it was a natural collaboration. We need to take care of our Mother Earth.”
Though the tour will end in September, each troll will remain in situ for three years, after which time locals can determine whether they'd like the sculpture to remain or not. Dambo is also documenting his American road trip on YouTube in a set of fun weekly videos so that others can get a behind-the-scenes look at how the trolls are built and learn more about the people who make Dambo's vision a reality.