Dialog With a Stone

Dialog With a Stone:

A stone may sit in my backyard studio for years before it tells me what’s curled inside. Then all of a sudden I feel some energy, something calling from it. Answering that call is one of the great joys of stonecarving.

At first the stone and I, we are shy together, we do not know how this thing will unfold. Like a relationship with a lover, the process is first one of just looking and listening. The dialog may be short and sweet, or long and arduous. The carving begins slowly at first, then with increasing confidence. It is often fraught with unexpected pain or pleasure: a piece breaks off, a new texture appears, wonderfully rough, impossible to plan. One can’t take credit for it.

At the end of a carving session, I sweep up slowly, a ritual for easing out of the intense absorption. But I am still infatuated and find myself glancing out the window at the carving in the backyard. After the brutalities and heartbreaks of the session, are we still speaking to each other? Are we still lovers? Once underway, a carving is never far from my thoughts.

Images appear in my dreams and abruptly during meditation. Then I go out and look over my stones, to see where this particular image might be hiding. In my notebooks there are hundreds of sketches that have not yet found a stone. I can already tell that this life is going to be too short.

Once an image begins to emerge in the stone, it feels so familiar that I am convinced I have seen it before. Years ago I told this to a Nigerian shaman. He laughed. “Of course you know them. They are all your previous lives."


Written September 1991

for the “Women As Artist” exhibit

Cape Museum of Fine Arts, Dennis