My favorite commission is that which allows me the freedom to sit still in a place and listen to what the land and water are saying.
Here was a former 19th century quarry operation, one of many on Cape Ann, Massachusetts. At some point, workers struck an underground cataract and within minutes, millions of gallons of water created this and a very large adjacent pond. The workers were lucky to have escaped with the chisels in their hands. All other machinery was lost forever.
Around the periphery of the pond are these enormous tailing piles of granite rubble. Some pieces are as big as cars. Assembled, they make grout heaps up to 50 feet tall. Their shapes are what drew me in. Ovoids, trapezoids, triangles, rhombuses, parallelograms, discs and daggers, anything but rectangles and squares, all formed a geologic garden of delight. Massive blooms of moss and lichen with birch trees raising their necks through the voids created a magnificent canvas of impressionist pointillism. I felt fortunate to witness Nature so diligently and beautifully at work, healing the scars of man's industriousness.
I scrambled up and over and under the piles, feeling so very close to the vision I sought. As I moved amongst the ruins, I realized how delicate and fragile was the new terrain of moss and leafed lichen being formed. One foot set on the lichen and it would crackle like a dry leaf and disintegrate. What had taken over a hundred years to create in this colony of lichen life on the stone's surface, I was mindlessly snuffing out with such energetic exploration. So I stopped and just sat still for a very long time.
What if one of these stones really did come to life ? What if it had risen and was leading the other shapes away from this geologic purgatory ? What if an explosive escape to the sky led to a return to the quiet earth ?
The Stone Bird is the most technically challenging sculpture I have built. Water in the mix changes everything. And here it was necessary in order to create the illusion of rising movement. Making the flow reliable and low maintenance required enormous work. All pipes, pump cages and vortex pumps are nuclear reactor grade stainless steel. The electrical system required massive amounts of trenching, cutting and wire pulling to get power over 500 feet through solid ledge to this site. And such a distance meant the voltage would drop unless the cables were extremely thick, heavy and very expensive.
The support column is a single 30 foot tall tapering obelisk of stainless welded sheets. It is pinned to the bedrock with solid stainless rods thick as a man's wrist. Then the column was filled to the top with cement, leaving the water feed pipes and the securing rods exposed to await the craned in setting of the stone bird.
I hammered the copper skin into a tight fitting shroud that slid down in one giant piece over the stainless column.
The pattern in the hammered copper evokes the shapes of the broken stones that are assembling, conjoin and unify at the apex, the energy core, the Stone Bird.
This took at least six months to build and then, when I thought it was complete and the water in the quarry filled back up, I tested it. And it didn't work. The water flowed in a geyser down from the upper neck of the bird, sure enough. All technical systems were functioning. But it was not spreading horizontally across the 10 foot wingspan at the waterfall drop off.
Sure enough, water seeks the quickest path. I had to spend 2 weeks on a 40 foot tall ladder emerging from the now filled quarry bottom, scrambling up and down the tilted stone surface, I carved channels and rivulets and added spines to cajole the water down and left and right to the far tips of the wing.
On a hot afternoon in July, 2000, it finally flew. And it has ever since.
2001 / Gloucester, Mass.