2011 - part 1
When Sarah and I returned to Vermont last May we were stunned to see the effects of a particularly brutal winter. Apparently, before the ground was fully frozen, the wind howled at over a 100mph for several hours. The trees on the hill adjacent to our house were shredded. Many were uprooted; others snapped off 20' up. Walking our extensive woods, I discovered whole areas that had been densely forested were wide open yet nearly impossible to pass through. (photo 1) Virtually every rise that faces east took a thrashing as if a bomb had gone off.
As I hiked these woods over the past forty two years, I often rested on a rock or stump and thought of my relationship to the land. The concept of "ownership" when applied to land is an absurd construct. At best we are custodians and now on our watch, this massive destruction. "Heartbreaking" is the only word I can think of, and yet it is so very inadequate. My time on the ocean has over and over shown me the power of nature. We humans are along for the ride, and to think otherwise is hubris of the highest order. Stepping back I realize that, just as fire clears the ground for new growth, wind removes the canopy so that diversity can flourish. Foresters told me that with the hemlock and pine thinned, more hardwoods would take root, so someday, if we live long enough, we may enjoy quite a different forest. Some folks think that my taking "perfectly good" straight, flat steel and massively distorting it makes no sense, and yet that is process from which my sculptures are born.
I soon contracted with a local logger to start the huge process of cleaning up. Of course, getting his equipment in the wood and skidding out the logs necessitated felling even more trees to create access roads. His team worked all summer and was still there when we left in November. (photo 2, photo 3) The tops of our trees will be chipped to provide electric power to the City of Burlington. I must add, somewhat proudly, that the many sculptures in the meadows including two wind kinetic works, rode out the storms showing no damage what-so-ever.
As it turns out, Jules, another "big tree" was gone from my "forest". My friend and assistant, Brian, felt that, due to upheavals in his life, he could no longer team with me. Brian and I had worked together off and on for over thirty years. We knew what we could expect of each other, and though the sculptures were always my concepts, I enjoyed his presence, input, sensibility, and valued his many skills. My other man, Jason, was also in some upheaval, but he promised to work when he could. So, though I wanted to start on many sculpture projects, I had to regroup. A part time Texas assistant, Mark Doyle, who had returned to college to pursue his art studies, proposed coming to Vermont until school resumed in August. Though this wouldn't get me through the whole fabrication season, I accepted his offer and he worked with good spirit and energy. Hopefully in the coming years, I can assemble a more regular, skilled crew, as training and looking out for the safety of new assistants always puts large demands on my energy and attention. Much time passes before these new people are skilled enough to assume some of my tasks.
Before we could get to any new pieces, we had sculptures to move or re-site. The Kouros Gallery of NYC wanted a piece or two for display at their outdoor park in Connecticut. I considered diverting the two works which were about to return from last year's North Carolina exhibition. Instead, because of the tight access to the CT site, I opted to load and deliver "Banded Rock" on my smaller truck. (photo 4, photo 5)
In this new section, "Letters to Jules", I share my thoughts through discussion and evaluation of my artistic endeavors each fabrication season. I hope these words and images give you further insight into my working process and concerns.
Typically, I spend from late May through October at my VT studio where I fabricate large scale works with the help of assistants. From November to May in Austin TX, I explore different materials, write proposals and develop concepts and models for future pieces.
I welcome your input, comments, and communications.
My letters to Jules...