From Durable Utility to Ephemeral Display

The difference between stone and rock is that rock only becomes stone when it gains employment. Whether fixed or loose, rock belongs to the earth. When humans pick it up and turn it to a use it becomes stone. There are many ways to make the transformation. Here are two examples.

This past month, stonework has taken me from the purely objective to the purely subjective. At the Dry Stone Walling Association, Examiner’s Standardization/Assessment in Cumbria, England and at The Stone Trust in Dummerston, Vermont I examined craftsmen taking their certification tests. As an examiner I awarded marks according to a set standard of craft governed by the strength and durability of construction. Stone is the medium used to achieve structural integrity in a utilitarian application.

For artist Edward Tufte, at his Hogpen Hill Farms in western Connecticut, rock turns to stone by becoming an object of particular visual interest. His eye is attracted to the beauty of fractured, faceted, iron-oxidized surfaces. Large flat slabs and long torqued beams offer him the tensile elements needed to gain what he refers to as Maximum Actuated Air. Space is shaped and activated by the relationships between stones assembled in ensembles. My work for ET is to materialize his initial ideas, using rocks of his choosing, so that he has a form to “de-mass.” He then edits the work by having me remove some stones and adding others, until MAA is achieved.

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