Every year, the plow turns up more stones in Ken Leach’s cornfield. It appears they’ve floated up through the rich Mettawee Valley soil from below the surface when in fact they’ve floated down upon the face of the earth from far above. There were once great clouds of ice between earth and sky. Ken’s stones were tucked into mile-high blankets of frozen water vapor. They’d been plucked from the even taller mountains that used to reign here, and carried in alluvial fans out across glaciers that were thousands of years in the making and thousands of years in the melting. When the land that is now a Vermont Land Trust protected property said goodbye to its last glacier, twelve thousand years ago, all the sediment and rock that was riding its coattails settled to the ground, creating the dark soil that farmers like for growing corn, plus, an unwelcome bounty of stones.
Looking out across a Mettawee Valley field after the corn has been harvested, the ground is littered with softball-sized stones. It’s as though the earth is trying to toss them back up to the clouds that dropped them there. In my mind’s eye they rise up to form their own lofty cirrus clouds, the bright puffy ones that predict a solid stretch of fair weather ahead.
This coming autumn I will bring a few tons of Ken’s stones to the grounds of the Shelburne Museum. They’ll be hung in the air by a group of volunteers outside the Pizzagalli Center. It sounds like magic but it’s really just a matter of collecting and assembling the parts to a whole that, at this moment, only exists in my head. In the coming months I will conceive of a framework and a system of containment for the stones that will enable us to build “Stone Clouds”. The sculpture will be my contribution to an exhibition titled, “Eyes On The Land”.
Photos illustrate site, site model, stone piles, valley views, Ken and Dan, nature inspirations and steel framework modules. Stone Clouds is funded, in part, by a grant from the Vermont Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.