Minnesota Rocks! revisitedby Marianne Combs, Minnesota Public Radio
Artists from around the world have been hard at work in St. Paul as part of an international stone carving symposium. The results of their work will become public art all over the city.
St. Paul, Minn. — Six weeks ago, we found St. Paul stone carver David Wyrick cursing over a several-ton block of dolomitic limestone as it refused to break in the direction he wanted. Now, his work complete, he is a changed man.
"I'm kind of beaming here a little bit as we're talking and kind of going through this psychological stages. I'm finished after six weeks and I have created this monumental sculpture, and just have this sense of...." Wyrick sighs as he searches for a word. "It feels good!"
Wyrick had originally planned to make two matching heads, bookends of sorts, that would face one another. But after completing the first one, he took a look at the remaining rock and decided he didn't like it.
"There was a top layer of the stone about six inches that was really poorly cemented and I'd have to take that whole top layer off the stone to get to the real meat of the stone you would say, or where the good stone lies," says Wyrick.
Instead, Wyrick made a sort of neck piece, on which the the head sits. The sculpture is nine feet tall. He conservatively estimates that it weighs about 2.5 tons.
Wyrick is thrilled it will go to his first choice for a home, sitting on the bluff above the Wabasha street caves, looking out over St. Paul. He imagines the sculpture will still be there long after he's died.
Wyrick is one of the six Minnesota artists who have been working with eight international artists. He now has friends to visit in Egypt, China, Mexico and Italy. The city of St. Paul now has 13 new works of public art, for free.
Christine Podas Larson, president of Public Art St. Paul, which organized the symposium, says that for the first few weeks, she would come to the site every day to visit the carvers. But she wouldn't see much changing; the rocks were just getting slightly smaller.
"And then all of a sudden we reached a point about two weeks ago where things just one after the other, it was just like a bowl of snap, crackle pop!" says Podas-Larson. "They just started snapping! You could just see exactly what they were and what they were going to be."
The finished sculptures include an Ojibwe woman, a cloud on a pedestal and a weatherman. There's a rock filled with paving stones, representing memory, an abstract tower and a pretty lady's face. They're made from limestone, granite, travertine and stromatolite.
Podas-Larson says over ten thousand people have come to visit the stone carvers on the lawn of St. Paul College, where they worked. She says that public interaction was just as important as the learning that went on among the artists themselves.
"That part of it means a lot to us at Public Art St. Paul," says Podas-Larson, "to make the art making process transparent and really engage people in a way that I think has transformed their own lives."
One of those people is Judy Cartier, a retired science teacher and avid rock collector, known to many as "Rocky." She's visited the stone carvers three times with her husband and grandchildren.
"The banded hematite is my very favorite; I think it's just beautiful. I've never seen it in such a hunk and then polished. It's just beautiful. When you touch a rock," says Cartier, "sometimes you're the very first person that's ever touched that part of the rock. I mean it's kind of spiritual to me. I think of God as my rock."
Cartier says when she first came to the site of the symposium, the rocks were still just large blocks. She touched each one of them, but couldn't imagine what might emerge from them six weeks later. She says she's awed by the talent of the carvers, and how they've captured the spirit of each stone.
"One of the rocks over here they made into a gravestone and some of its polished and some of it isn't," says Cartier. "It made me think it's kind of like our life, that some parts are of our lives are polished, and then there's some that are rough."
The international stone carving symposium ends Friday, but the carvings will remain on the lawn of St. Paul College until they're moved to their final destinations. Christine Podas-Larson expects that process to begin in late July, and finish in mid-August.
- Morning Edition, 06/30/2006, 6:50 a.m.