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Shapeshifting Soapstone at Haworth Library

I just finished setting up my first showing of the soapstone carvings I’ve been doing annually for the past six years. They’ll be at the Haworth (NJ) Library throughout September.

Here’s what I wrote about it for the show:

I’ve worked as an artist and designer for over 20 years but nothing has given me the personal satisfaction that stone carving has. It is a primal way to interact with the elemental spirits — or to see one’s subconscious reflected in obdurate stone.

Soapstone is the easiest of stones to carve and generally responds to the same tools you would use on wood. The grain of stones is more subtle than that of wood and the stone will often shear in the middle of a project causing the artist to rethink his or her work and rediscover the piece within.

I’ve studied soapstone carving with Candis Dixon on Star Island for the past six years. Each of the pieces here comes from one of those weeks. The stone always surprises me.

Stone carving is often experienced as a communion, or a wrestling, with the spirit of a stone and its transformation. Inuit and Northwest Indian mythologies are filled with shape-shifters, were-beasts that live in two worlds. Shamans and seafarers look through the surface of one world into another and tell stories that tie those worlds together. Art, the ritual object, represents a doorway between the worlds. (Read The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman and you’ll get the idea).

The mutability of stone teaches that things aren’t what they seem. Winkling (twinkling from another perspective) between viewpoints we see one aspect and another and another, each resolving seamlessly into the other. I think there are parallels with how we see people: as we go beyond a superficial view they morph into multi-faceted beings that constantly surprise us.

Imagine a week with a psychic therapist hammering at you incessantly to get you to release your inner self. Imagine caressing stone until it becomes alive. Imagine no yin/no yang, no inner/no outer: only multiplicity. No choices, only options.

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