Posts in Environmental Art
Rocky Toppers

The studio has been filling up with rocky toppers this winter. The half-products are elements in a sculpture to be installed as part of a new outdoor exhibition at Shelburne Museum. The uniquely shaped objects will be arranged atop berms of loose stone. The completed piece will sprawl across the floor of a pine forest, flowing between and around the tree trunks.

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Mother Earth Asks Dr. Stonework

Having landscaping and stonework done can be a geophysical boost to Earth’s well being in the long run but it’s not without short-term costs. Before the shovel goes in, here are some FAQs for a planet considering a surgical procedure.

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Going Public

Navigating the process of a public art proposal feels like a long walk by flashlight through a snowstorm. Signs are unclear and paths become obscure along the way. Because the destination is not a geographically fixed point, there remain, at the conclusion of an artist’s unsuccessful bid to win a competition, questions about where they traveled, and why the trip dead-ended.

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Writing and Reading

This past Wednesday I did a reading at the Aldrich, Barre Vermont’s public library, a beautiful old edifice that well serves its modern patrons. Excerpts from my three published books were assembled under five themes and read from newest to oldest. Audience members remained in their seats for a full hour! The after-questions were intelligent and sincere. I’m grateful to all who came to listen and converse.

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Slate Bauble

Upon completion, the Bauble perched on its temporary base in the sugarhouse woodshed for three months while the adhesive that held it together cured.

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Dry Stone Art in Nature

Longevity self-validates. Just to have lasted decades in an occupation brings with it a certain degree of credibility. A reputation develops around what’s been done. The integrity of the stoneworker lies in their accumulated projects.

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The Solitary Stoneworker

Conditions being what they were of late with snow storm after snow storm, I stayed away from the stone project in-progress and gave myself a propertyless assignment. The premise was to compile a collection of photos that illustrate the work life of a solitary stoneworker; with myself as the subject and past projects as the source material.

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2017 Stone Projects and Art Travels

The 2017 work year was a variety-pack of projects and travels bringing rocks and people together. Projects from 2017 now lie nestled in snow, while projects for 2018 are already underway.

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Diamond Mines

Environmental artworks in the public domain can quickly fall into the realm of personal legend. One of the best qualities of art in the outdoors is its ability to be endlessly personalized. Each new viewer makes it their own and every return visitor reestablishes their claim to it.

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Art Above the Arctic

A week on Sørvær in Northern Norway kept me immersed in the land and enveloped by the sea. The atmosphere of this island among islands is reigned by the sky above and waters below. Combined, they create an undeniably powerful influence. My moods changed at the whim of the weather. Even though I’ve spent my adult life working outdoors I’m unconditioned to the reality of light reflected from a vast and shifting water surface, or, tides streaming in and out all around. Grasping the totality of the archipelago's grand and sweeping vistas was a heady experience.

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Granite Jenga

What could be a more direct expression of form than molding earth in one’s hands? While the modes of earth shaping may vary, the impulse is ages old and remains strong as ever. My personal choice for satisfying the desire for hands-on interpretation of the earthly elements is the manipulation and configuration of loose stone. Within that narrow frame a wide variety of creative endeavors can be manifest.

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The Stone Hollow

Environmental art serves a wider community. It can prosper plants and animals as well as humans. Art making in nature stirs the pot of local ingredients, recombining elements in ways previously untested. Wild things are opportunists; it’s programed into their DNA for survival. When something new appears in the landscape, ecologies respond. An environmental art work is breeding ground for creative adaptation. Its ultimate use is left up to the invention of its inhabitants.

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Art of the Outdoors

My classmate, Hass, and I were standing on a rooftop on the lower west side of Manhattan watching a dance performance taking place in a vacant lot across the street when he nudged me and whispered, “That’s Robert Smithson.” The tall guy to my left at the parapet, in a cowboy hat and black trench coat, was solemnly staring down at the ground, along with a couple dozen other bohemes of the downtown art scene who had climbed four flights of rickety stairs in a derelict, cheese warehouse to view the show.

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The Holy Well

Excavation of the hillside spring revealed layers of geologic stratification. Top soil lay on coarse gravel over pure sand on top of clay hardpan. The design called for ground water that trickled out of the sand layer to be trapped in a hollow under a half-shell overhang. Recycled slate from building foundation ruins and cobbles from a gravel pit were combined to shape the dry stone installation.

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A Ripple Effect in Stone and Steel

As part of its 40th anniversary, the Montshire Museum of Science in Norwich, Vermont commissioned me to create a permanent, interactive, environmental art piece. The result is a 1,000 sq. ft. dry stone and stainless steel sculpture that rises like a geologic upthrust from the open space alongside the museum entryway. Visitors can walk, climb and sit on the undulant surfaces of the work, or, simply view it on their way to, and from, the building.

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Finn Island at Landmark College

During the month of May, a 22 meter long sculpture surfaced on the quad at Landmark College in Putney, Vermont. The dorsal fin of the granite and earth construction rises 2 meters above the MacFarlane Science, Technology & Innovation Center lawn. Once the cover plants are established on the earthen swells of the shark body, the piece will become an inviting land feature for students and faculty to congregate for outdoor classes and conversation.

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Cairn With a Twist

As solid as land art is, it’s capable of absorbing an unlimited amount of meaning. Each viewer brings a unique perspective and adds a bit of their own story to the experience of the work. The memory of the work that they go away with is a blend of what they brought and what they discovered while there. The meaning of the work is modified by every viewer. Over time, with many viewings, that adds up to a hefty load of ephemeral meanings, none of which physically impact the land art. It stays the same as its meaning changes.

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Rock Springs Revisited

After decades of assessing the attributes of inanimate objects in a direct and uncompromising way, I find myself in terrain where taking that path of least resistance only leads down a slippery slope to nowhere special. From a distance, the long way around appears to be inefficient and wasteful, but once the trip begins, the side tracks and stops along the way become the definition of the journey. The people met, the conversations had, the agreements made, are memorialized in the installation that’s left behind. They become the substance, if not the point, of the project. The public work now belongs to those who meander by, and will, I hope, become their memory touchstone.

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