I’m looking at something I can’t put a name to. Stones that have been split apart, artful but messy, with thin wire wrapped around, a mass of wool, bits and pieces of things that don’t seem to belong together, and it holds my eye, a need to look until I understand.
“I wanted them to feel like bird’s nests,” Haley Kean explains, and it clicks into place.
Kean, 22, is an intern at West Rutland’s Carving Studio and Sculpture Center. We are standing by the windows in one of the gallery’s back rooms, where nine small stone pieces she recently made are sitting on the windowsills. Her brown hair is currently cut short, to her chin, which isn’t an off-handed detail, it’s part of the work. The haircut wasn’t an aesthetic choice, it was an artistic one.
“I cut my hair for this purpose,” Kean said. “My idea was to kind of physically insert myself into some kind of object. So I used my hair. I’ve gotten a lot of comments like, ‘That’s kind of uncomfortable.’”
Kean is one of 11 artists presenting sculptural installations for this year’s SculptFest at the Carving Studio and Sculpture Center. The public opening reception for the annual exhibition is 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7. The theme, “Changes.”
Kean’s idea is to split stones in half representing “short-term change (in) how the wool and the wires get rusty, and it will all disperse and biodegrade, and the long-term impact will be how weathering affects the rocks.”
Guest curator Bill Wolff selected site-specific works by the artists, including Carving Studio interns Kean and Jake Paron, 24.
“From a content perspective I was looking for as much variety as possible,” Wolff said by phone. “People carving marble as well as more conceptually based works, installation works, and some mixed-media stuff.”
“The theme … was loose, it leaves a lot of room for interpretation. We were all just inspired,” said Executive Director Carol Driscoll, who also has work in the show.
The exhibit spills out into the property surrounding the galleries this year, all along the quarry road and in the adjacent field.
“I’m hoping viewers are led on a pleasant Easter egg hunt,” Wolff said.
One installation, “Voiceless” by Nora Valdez, stands outside the studio walls. It began from a single piece of stone, which is hard to imagine when you see how they have been split into four pieces and minimally chiseled to form figures on top of each. On one a small girl sits alone. Its simplicity somehow emanates loneliness and desperation. On another pillar the same girl sits with her knees to her chest, her back facing the figure behind her.
“They are so disturbing to me,” Driscoll said. “The scale I love, and I love that they’re all from the same stone and only carved a little bit.”
Paron, the other intern with work in the show, also has pieces which are hard to imagine began from one solid block of stone.
“I’ve been calling them my ring pieces,” he said. “They don’t have titles individually.”
“You drill and break out the pieces between the ring and this central shaft,” Paron explained. “Mainly with a chisel run from an air compressor, so it’s like a jackhammer. It’s a very slow process and you’re pretty much digging it out of the stone.”
“I was modeling them after the old quarry equipment I observed,” he added. “I wanted to make something that was inexplicable and kind of mysterious.”
Wolff lives in Maryland and curated based on photos and the strength of artists’ past work. He will be seeing the exhibit for the first time along with visitors and said, “It’s a little frustrating to be remote. I wish I could see work developing. I haven’t seen any of the work for this show yet, but artists who have consistently made terrific work are being represented.”