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.

Read More
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.

Read More
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.

Read More
Stone Fun with Family

A family is held together by those things that their members share with each other. The “giving away” increases the closeness between individuals and tightens the family bonds. Mutual respect grows when a balance of give and take circulates within the tribe.

Read More
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.

Read More
Something from Nothing

A recent artist residency at AARK in Finland’s western archipelago allowed me the freedom to make something from nothing. There were no tools at hand and none of the materials I’ve grown accustomed to for making artworks. The islands were swept clean of loose stone by the last ice age, leaving a landscape of bedrock, worn smooth. Enough soil caught in low pockets to start the growth of the forest that now thrives there. It was in that birch and evergreen forest that I found my moss muse.

Read More
Stone in Motion

Free stone construction is a practice of seeking. The contents of a pile of loose stone is just waiting to be found out. Everything needed to create a sturdy structure is there. The possibilities are discovered as they’re uncovered, then explored and exploited, one after another. Moment by moment, movement by movement, stones topple into place. Their size, shape and center of gravity are predetermined by the natural forces that made them, but their status in a construction relies on an instant, reflexive response to their stature by the builder.

Read More
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.

Read More
Landscape and Lasting Friendships

When they bought the old farmhouse in the early eighties the town road passed within eight feet of the front door. Robin and David Key were willing to overlook that serious drawback because they were in love with the ancient apple trees, the gurgling brook and the wealth of wildlife on the property. All of that was outside the back door just beyond a precipitous drop in the landscape. The retaining wall I would soon build to create a level backyard was the first in a series of dry stone projects we took on together over the following thirty years.

Read More
TCLF Garden Dialogues: Artists in Residence: Vermont

A fourth generation of the Key family has begun to ramble Winhall Hollow. Pond and stream, woods and fields, are the wider setting for their active home and garden life. Into the mix comes long-time friend and dry stone specialist, Dan Snow. He has constructed numerous stone features on the grounds around their house and barns. Stone from the property has been used to fashion steps, patios, retaining walls and fences. Robin Key’s landscape design has seamlessly woven a contemporary aesthetic into the historic fabric of the Hollow.

Read More
The Isosceles Stone Wall

Even without the silhouette of a crosswalking pedestrian or leaping deer, road signs with a triangular outline convey a message of caution; warning the traveler to be aware of what lies ahead. The sharp angles draw attention because they represent sudden change. Survival of the human species has depended on the ability of individuals to recognize signs of change and to adapt quickly to new situations.

Read More
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.

Read More
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.

Read More
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.

Read More
Action in a Resting Place

Understandably, the present strives toward the future, but there’s nothing to say we can’t, from time to time, turn around and walk backwards into it. In that way, momentum can be maintained while gazing back, with love and affection, on those who have come before. They might appreciate it, and our steps may be lightened by the expanded outlook on our place in time.

Read More
Fire Circle Square

The design and layout of Fire Circle Square highlights quartz boulders by turning a collection of them into a fireplace and four adjacent perches. After positioning the stones, I carved depressions into them to create smooth sitting places. The fireplace stones were also cut, ground and polished, and then assembled into a plinth to hold a steel fire bowl. Between the plinth and seats I laid a floor with flagstone from a local quarry. The location of the piece was chosen to take advantage of a preexisting wall corner and a western overlook facing the mountain-ridged horizon.

Read More
Stone Well Cover

I can only imagine the pride a 19th century homesteader might have had, on the completion of a hand-dug, stone-lined water well. The clear, cold water contained in it would have been an essential ingredient for any hill farm’s success. Some old wells are still in use today at venerable New England homes, while other 30 foot deep examples of the well digger’s art may be found next to abandoned cellar holes in the backwoods. Although underground and out of sight, such a towering achievement deserved to be crowned, and many were, with a beautiful stone well cover. The cover helped keep the well from contamination, and children and livestock safe from falling in.

Read More
Lucy's Place

Just as the removal of one letter from the word ”whole” creates a “hole”, the loss of a family member leaves a void for those left behind. One way to help heal the rift is to remember the departed with a permanent marker on the landscape. A stone memorial can fuse the acknowledgment of their passing with the memory of their life on earth.

Read More