Yesterday my good friend Nick and I enjoyed the hell out of installing this piece, just a few miles away from the gallery where it was shown.
There were dodgy moments, small accidents and lucky breaks. I’ll share one or two.
First balls-up was mine. I had had too much coffee, probably. The initial move is a small one. The tool is a simple 2×10, a 10 ‘ length, used as a lever. The goal is to lift only a little, to make room under the piece to slide in a strap.
You place a brick down, and seesaw the piece up. Well, in tipping this gentle giant to block it, I went well past the balance point, and it fell with a crash on its side, scaring all of us terribly.
That was the start.
The moment just before this two-foot drop was wildly harrowing. In our humble configuration, we strapped the piece to a tree, and Nick drive the trailer out from under the stone. Low-tech. Scary as hell.
Worked like a charm.
I am always grateful to sell a piece, and love the challenges involved in moving the work to it’s new home. Particularly on this job, now that this monumental piece has found her place, I’m quite relieved.
I had been back in town to be at my father’s funeral. I wrote a piece for The Lakeville Journal about that. Here it is:
Saturday morning, Nov. 5, in Kent, you may have heard the rumble of a diesel engine outside the Ober Gallery as a large excavator came to life, lifting a heavy stone sculpture.
Tipping the 20-foot-high piece on its side to wrap it in nylon straps, a small crew held their breath as its full 1,500 pounds slowly left the ground. The capable hands of Vinnie the backhoe operator allowed no harm to come to the piece as he gently set it in the steel bed of a heavy duty trailer. Then, the work began.
I am the artist, Karl Saliter of Cornwall Bridge. It’s always harrowing. Every time. That Saturday, I worked with Nick Crofut Brittingham, a brilliant welder from North Canaan and a dear friend. Nick has the right trailer and keen problem-solving skills. Huge bonus: he makes the day fun. That’s Nick’s gift.
I live part-time in Mexico, and was here last week to attend my father’s funeral.
That move on Saturday was poignant for me. Pop loved to work so much, and one of his final days out with materials in his hands, we worked together with eight friends installing a piece called “Time to Breathe” for my friend Sue Lamont in Lakeville.
You really have to think on your feet, moving these pieces. I remember Pop telling me a decade ago: “You’re working with heavy materials. And you’re learning by trial and error. It’s not a good thing.” I did love how he could make admonishments like that unintentionally hilarious. It had to do with his unique voice. But he was right. It is scary stuff.
These scary feats, though, have landed my work several grants, among them a Connecticut Council on the Arts Individual Artist Grant. My sculpture has been placed in museums, on permanent exhibit at the Pratt Sculpture Garden and in exhibitions and galleries in countries including Mexico, South Korea, England and Thailand.
Rob Ober, a gallerist who has carried my sculpture for years, says of it, to my joy: “Karl’s works bring to mind that famous statement by the architect Louis Kahn: ‘What would a brick want to be?’ His approach to making sculpture contains the same spirit, but with a twist, as in: ‘What would a stone want to be?’ His sculpture always works because it is a product of both nature’s wishes and his own.”
Saturday’s piece, called “New Growth,” features a rounded base stone and very high, rusted steel rods, some an inch thick. Atop the rods, sometimes moving in a breeze, are some smaller stones, some as big as your head. You can tell it is “built” and took time to make, yet it looks like it might have sprouted in the muddy banks of a mountain stream.
David Carey is the patron who bought the work. His goal, he says, is to make his new country home an exciting place for both children and grandchildren to visit. David is on the board of the Whitney Museum and has a deep love of art and human expression.
I believe art is the only thing that can save us. In so many ways, seriously, the bad guys have won. But we still have art. When we take that very courageous step and create, hope is born. Something brand new emerges on the planet. People who buy art are awesome, their very tangible encouragement breathes life into the work we do. I love that.
I credit two Cornwall sculptors for lessons that led me to where I am now, a working sculptor and artist.
Tim Prentice, our resident kinetic sculpture wizard, gave me a great gift one day, probably 20 years ago now. He showed me how to market my work. He explained why public art is fair, and I landed a commission in West Hollywood by applying his perspectives.
Peter Busby, large animal sculpture ninja, taught me that large-scale sculpture is literally a ton of fun. We have enjoyed so many laughs while working hard to move his pieces, which nobody on Earth knows how to move. Peter taught me that you can be dead serious while keeping a light heart.
I approach my materials intuitively, and on a good day, I revere the many stones I encounter. I maintain studios in a converted church in Cornwall Bridge and in a seaside urban building in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
I love it here. And I love it there. I’m making a series of palm trees now, 15 to 20 feet high. The stones are coconuts. You should come down. It’s amazing.
Right now, I have two fresh pieces that can be viewed on the lawn of the Ober Gallery. Details about the harrowing nature of Saturday’s installation are revealed at www.karlsalitersculpture.com.