Mark Saxe - I was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts. In 1908, 38 years before I was born, the Great Chelsea Fire burned half the city to the ground. It was just after this Great Fire that boat loads of Eastern European, Jewish, Italian, Irish, Greek, and Russian Orthodox immigrants came to Chelsea to buy up the partially burned houses on the cheap. My grandparents, Yiddish speaking Jews from Odessa, Russia, were among them. They bought a house in Chelsea and fixed it up. The charred black rafters in the attic crawl space still told the story. It was in that house that I was brought up.
Besides the cheap and charred houses, the fire gave birth to hundreds of junkyards salvaging as much as they could from the fire. Each one specialized in certain commodities: paper, cardboard, ferrous metal, non-ferrous metal, glass, brick and stone, car parts, chemicals, etc. This land of junkyards was my playground. I rode my bicycle down into the junk district every chance I got to look at fragments and to pick up a prize piece of junk, maybe something that fell out of the back of a truck. I would bike it home to my playroom, the boiler room, in the basement of the house. It was my first workspace. I spent many years wandering before I realized that that time in the boiler room had been the happiest time of my life so far: making, creating, breaking, fixing, and rearranging.
In 1964 I entered the University of Massachusetts. In 1966 I was expelled, and within a few days was drafted by the US Army. I served in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968. During that time, I maintained my sanity as much as possible with words, by writing poetry. After I was discharged from the Army, I traveled extensively in Europe. I found that the words I had depended on were somehow failing me. But in their place was art, architecture, painting, sculpture and stone. Stone was (is) everywhere. I fell in love with it.
After Europe, I went to the Instituto Allende in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, on the GI Bill. I received my MFA and then taught there for a year. Next came a 3-year apprenticeship with a stonemason in Massachusetts, and then I moved to New Mexico to begin my career as a sculptor. I was recreating that boiler room of my youth, so to speak. I opened Southwest Stoneworks in 1976 and have been working with stone for 41 years.
I met my wife, ceramist Betsy Williams, in 1999. She inspires me. Together, in 2005, we opened Rift Gallery adjacent to my stoneyard in Rinconada, New Mexico. In the gallery, we feature a carefully curated selection of contemporary two-and three-dimensional work.
Master stonecarver Nick Fairplay apprenticed at the age of 16 at Chichester Cathedral. He graduated from the City and Guilds of London Art College and then traveled on scholarship to Rome to study art and architecture. He was the lead stone carver at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine where he taught a cadre of young people to carve. Nick is known for his teaching talents, mastery of technique, and voluminous knowledge of the history of stone carving and sculpture.
Joseph Kincannon is a product of that lineage, having spent five years as an apprentice carver at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and then serving as the lead stonecarver there for an additional six years. Joseph and his wife, Holly, now live in Austin, Texas, where they own Kincannon Studios, specializing in architectural and sculptural stonecarving.
Joseph brings more than thirty years of carving experience to the workshop. He has been our Guest Instructor many times over the past 17 years and with good reason: his ability to convey information; his uncanny talent for making stone move like flowing water; his sense of humor, personal humility, and dedication to the art and craft of stonecarving; and a uniquely generous spirit.
Petro Hul has been working with stone for over thirty years, as both a sculptor and a stonemason, becoming well versed in the use of traditional tools and techniques as well as more contemporary approaches with saws, grinders and diamond tools. He has been teaching workshops and classes for about fifteen years, however he continues to see himself as a student of stone and is continually trying to improve his craft. In addition to his experience with stone, Petro has worked as a foundryman for fifteen years, he ran the sculpture department at Rutgers University for five years, and he was a staff sculptor at the Digital Stone Project.
In his sculpture, Petro melds his passion for stone with his love of canyon country and the natural world. His latest sculptures reflect his interpretations of the geology of the southwest and the canyons of the greater Four Corners area.
Petro lives in Tucson, Az with his wife Betsy Bowen and, when he is not in his studio, he can often be found hiking and exploring the canyons surrounding him.
Special GUEST ARTIST Kazutaka Uchida from Tokyo, Japan, imparts his exquisite aesthetic to the stone in the manner of his friend and mentor, Isamu Noguchi. He brings over 40 years of stone sculpting experience to bear as he unlocks the inner beauty of the stone, giving workshop participants a rare opportunity to work with a world class artist.
Special GUEST ARTIST Benjamin Lopez is a native northern New Mexico artist who has worked in wood making santos and contemporary sculpture for over 40 years. His influence in the santero tradition in the region has been pivotal in reviving the art form by giving it an exciting relevancy. His work has a wide-sweeping reputation. Ben works in many other mediums as well, and has been a wonderful presence in the past 5 workshops.
Betsy Williams is co-director of the workshops. A full-time ceramist and director of Rift Gallery, during the workshops she acts as the behind-the-scenes organizer and maker of lunches.
© 2019 Southwest Stoneworks, LLC.