Memory Stones

To commemorate a life after its passing completes the departure for those left behind. A stone tablet dedicated to the memory of a loved one holds them here and lets them go at the same time. We can release our grip on the past once we’re certain it won’t be forgotten.

A few chosen words etched on a stone that rests in a sacred and solemn place convey to future generations of family and community members that they have the love and support of those who came before. On stone after cemetery stone, the message is, “We lived lives worthy of a memory that you may have and keep”.

As a worker in stone I’m sometimes asked to create funerary monuments. Art making in a cemetery is necessarily a delicate operation. I want the monument design and installation to be respectful of its setting, while at the same time, I want to be true to my mission as an artist. A cemetery already has a very strong presence of place. An attempt to make something radically different from what’s come before would be working against the grain of time.

As an environmental artist I strive to reveal new perspectives on place but in the case of an installation in a graveyard my outlook is more inward. I’m looking to condense and synthesize the dynamic forces that bridge the lives of those who have departed and those who wish to honor them. The simple selection and arrangement of stones can fuse the two into a whole that can feel both refreshingly new and comfortably old.

After months of discussion, planning and preparation the monument to Marchen Thompson Skinner and Calvin C. Skinner was erected in the Thompson plot on Monday. The two natural shaped stones overlap each other and share a poem. My thanks to Dennis Tier for designing and etching the layout and iconography, to A. S. Clark and Sons for transportation and installation and to the Skinner family for their trust and confidence.

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