Very much a thinking object, this is a proposal for a sculpture I wish to site at a museum. The sculpture exists. It stands outside my studio, waiting. I welcome the chance to site it anywhere water will be such a key contextual element.
Water does, in fact emerge from the top through hidden holes and quietly sparkles on the granite surface in a peaceful and dignified shimmer.
2004 / Steep Rock, Ct.
Collection of the Artist
The challenge : To thread a 30 foot tall stone weighing 10 tons down a stairway shaft that will involve it passing mere inches from the building wall. If it even touches the brick wall, the massive force imparted even at slow speed will smash the brick wall. WIth a great work crew and some impressive machinery, the set went flawlessly.
Coaxing the water to go where I wished was, as always, the interesting part. A reflecting pool in the basement floor captures and recirculates the water back to the top through a hole drilled the entire length of the stone. It then drops at a rapid rate but not so fast it will stop clinging to the rock and spray the marble floors. Fun ! Many nights working after hours in this office on the water system, I found myself wondering why I take on such Sysiphean tasks !
Eventually, the flow worked fine and pump systems proved reliable. And then I received an envelope full of dry cleaning receipts sent by the lawyers office. It seems that they were so drawn to the shimmering stone as they ascended the stairs, that they would absently touch the rock with their flat palms. The water would run along their shirt sleeves and down their front quite quickly, leaving them soaked. Being a proletarian, I didn't pay their bill.
1998 / Westport, Ct.
Materials are fascinating. Granite and glass, for example, are more closely related than people think. Both are extremely hard and inflexible or unmalleable which is, ironically, a sign of material weakness. But in compressive strength, they are very powerful. Both are composed of Silica quartz. If lightning strikes powdered granite or sand with quartz content, it will vitrify the stone into glass. Beautiful structures that look like irridescent colored tree roots and are called fulgurites will radiate out and down deep into the earth from the strike impact point.
In this sculpture, I play with the idea of transparence and opacity. Stone is opaque glass. Glass is transparent stone. They come together here to form a time portal of sorts. Nothing exposed to the grinding effects of natural wind and water is ever timeless. But on the scale of earthly materials, these are time long. Consider this keystone fountain an equation and a tribute to their amazing atomic structure.
Steep Rock, Ct. / 1998
Collection of the Artist
The Stone Menagerie
Shall I count the ways I love thee ? May I count in the currency of what you've cost me ? Two Broken ribs, countless stitches, missing toenails, delicate ears and back spasms that return like horsemen on the horizon with every rainstorm. Did I have to be so heavily metaphoric in your construction, agonize over the smallest details and gasp under the heaviest loads, in order to weave from stone cloth this fanciful daydream of creatures assembling at an oasis ? Why couldn't I be a fine art conceptualist and phone in the idea of an idea for my hipster apprentices to interpret while I went to dinner at a fabulous restaurant ?
The Stone Menagerie is the single largest, most time and body consuming work in my portfolio. This woodland oasis took myself and four dedicated men almost a full year to complete. It was made with the same Victorian intensity of purpose and vision for the long span that guided Frederick Law Olmstead in Central Park. This is a chief reason that, going forward, I will create on such a scale only if it benefits the public at large.
The Stone Menagerie
The title of the work is a direct homage to Tennessee Williams', 1944 play, "The Glass Menagerie." The character of Laura Wingfield I've always empathized and identified with. People who know the strong bull that is me would find that ironic. But it is true. Laura is a young woman with a physical disability, because of which society and her family treat her as weak, delicate and fragile. She single mindedly focuses on her fragile collection of glass ornaments and animals as a way of understanding and mitigating the harsh world. Williams did the same by immersing himself deeply in his writing.
In mine, I do the same by daydreaming with the ink of landscape sculpture, with stone instead of glass, and then suffer physically to bring life to that dream. I've known enough old masons in my time to vividly see that bent rocker shape of their silhouette in the dusty gauze of a hot dry day. Their hands are swollen and cracked. Grey ash fills the lines on their faces. They yell when you lean in to say hello because the hammering has taken away their hearing. And then they smile and their eyes sparkle when they see it is just the dumb kid with the straw hat interrupting their work again to show them something he found in the forest.
The Stone Menagerie
This ancient wise stone told me that if I wished to keep my digits and toes I would need to treat it with respect. Only minimal work was done around the whale form. The whole concept of a menagerie led from here. The whale's tail or fluke was just that. I searched the forest and granite crags of the back property and discovered acres teeming with raw material and inspiration. Amazing shapes, forms and creature orphans and, here, two special stones that perfectly formed a tail. The Large whale begot a baby whale. A large mother lizard begot many baby lizards. Toads, frogs and stone salamanders emerge from the cracks and draw to the water's edge.
Over 300 tons of native granite was found and carefully fitted to create this aquatic Bomarzo. Much was moved on rollers and dollys if the stone discovered was pulled from a wetland or fragile fern area. And as a passionate naif, someone who loved the work so much he would have done it for free, I didn't charge enough money to afford special machinery. Nightfall found me with a plate of cheap pasta on my lap, looking at old books on the theoretical ways the Egyptians moved the pyramid stones, the ingenious cantilevering systems employed by Archimedes in the ocean defense of Syracuse, Sicily against the Roman leader, Marcellus and on the methods of block lifting employed by the builders of Gothic cathedrals. Books were my best tools. Nothing arrived on a pallet from the back of a truck.
Stone met flesh in that wooded field and stone won. I am as weak and strong as Laura Wingfield after all. But in that same exchange of energy, stone took on spirit, my childlike spirit. And both were transformed. Neither will ever be the same again.
1999-2000 / Danbury, Ct.
Trees have been an anchor of life on earth for almost 400 millions years. If you were to read a clock of biological evolution, homo sapiens wouldn't appear until the 58th second of the 59th minute. So much of what we value as a species is derived from or inspired by trees.
My passion for them dates back to the first memory I can recall in my lifetime. I was in a basket set on a tuft of sphagnum moss by my father, while he painted the landscape on an easel en plain air. I might have been 2 or 3 years old. As I watched him make colors appear on the canvas from this magical stick in his hand, a swishing sound attracted me from above. I stared toward the sky and watched the tops of this huge white pine tree sway back and forth gently in the wind.
For the forever that followed til now, I have been comforted and passionately inspired by the gentle giants. This copper and brass form I started building in 1988 but didn't complete until 2009. It was presented at a New York showcase of landscape sculptures that year and returned to its present site at my studio. Internal pipes feed the topmost leaves. Water fills hammered cups in each leaf and then a small canal leads water from one leaf dropping into the cup of another like alms bowls being held to the sky. The wall is fired granite, the circular toad stone a native find I discovered on the edge of a farmer's field.
The title is an amalgamation of both libelulle or dragonfly in french and loup or wolf. About 10 years ago, I was running in the hemlock forest near my studio and found myself being trailed by a pair of dragonflies who seemed quite amused by this awkward, sweating, puffing creature on 2 legs. Suddenly, as soon as I turned to see where they had gone, I came upon what first appeared to be a coyote but its shoulders were too high and tail too long. Then I thought it must be someone's dog. But the way this creature stood and commanded the ground beneath his huge paws told me there was no master to this wolf. The sun caught his eyes and they were an intense yellow gold. It shook its head from side to side, sniffing the air. I backed up and held my breath. This was to be the day I died. I welcomed the method of execution, to become a wolf by mixing with the acids in its belly and feeding its cells. So... In one quick motion it leaped up the slope off trail and disappeared.
I looked left and right, behind me, up to the sky. The tops of a large white pine tree were gently swaying back and forth in the wind.
1988-2009 . Steep Rock, Ct.
Collection of the Artist