Sticks and Stones

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stone from South Carolina with carved walnut base

stone from Missouri with walnut base

stone from Missouri with walnut base

stone from South Carolina on carved pine base

stone from South Carolina on carved pine base

pine base, chip-carved to accept and stabilize the stone

pine base, chip-carved to accept and stabilize the stone

Recently I have been making bases for my growing collection of scholar’s rocks.  This is satisfying work, because the shift in context instantly elevates the observation and contemplation of the stone.  It is roughly equivalent to putting a frame on a painting.  An old trick and a simple pleasure– put a frame on anything and it gains at least the implication of importance.  This has much in common with the contemporary trend of “white box” exhibition spaces.  The gallery becomes its own framing device,  separating the art from the world by being as silent and sterile as possible.  Observing that transformation can be a little disconcerting for both the artist and the viewer.  The implication that “anything can be art” always smacks of a power grab by the incompetent, and so the questions  “what makes it good?”  and “what makes it art?” remain vital.

The conversation is further complicated in my own mind when the objects are found, not made.  My activity as an artist increasingly incorporates such “ready-mades”, and while this practice is well supported I find that I am inclined to balance aspects of collection with creation.  There is friction between the two which, at its best, can function as iron sharpening iron.  It highlights the arguments between art and craft, philosophy and activity, the spirit and the flesh.