The Aesthetics of Working…In Stone

Oct 24, 2023 | Curriculum, High School, Student Work

by Phil Dwyer | Earth Arts Teacher

a beautiful object carved out of stone, resembling a bird.

Masterfully carved alabaster stone by twelfth grader, VivIan.

The will to work. The will to persevere at discarding the superfluous. The will to develop the skills, and the will to use them diligently without interruption or distraction is a noteworthy undertaking these days…for anyone, especially a teenager. Not just any adolescent but those who are about to take what might be considered a first (nearly completely) self-directed step toward adulthood; high school seniors who are busy getting ready to embark on their post high school path toward their yet to be revealed futures.

Carving stone to wrest free a satisfactory three-dimensional form is a perfect task for flexing valuable capacities, not least of which is to sustain work with rigor. The work of reductive carving: to hold a form in the mind’s eye and manifest it by laboriously removing what isn’t it. Sounds simple; it’s not. Nor is developing the hammer and chisel coordination and strength of hand to get the task done until what was grasped in the mind’s eye is manifest in substance and held in the very hands that pound it into existence.

We never have enough session hours for such an undertaking, but undertake it the students do nonetheless. Whether or not it is managed to completion (it is such a joy when it is), the journey of application is a worthy and important one. The ability to sustain work through one’s own self-discipline and self-directed will is invaluable. Effort to cultivate this ability is well worth the time. Practicing by attempting to manifest some of the aesthetics of three-dimensional form via stone carving is not only the perfect metaphor, it is truly the perfect medium. Striving at developing capacities to perceive what is hidden, to initiate and sustain work, and to manifest one’s goals will serve the students well. It strengthens their wings as they prepare to fly forward.