By Alex Bunten | The Charlotte News
Oblong lengths of industrial pipe jut out of the ground in all directions against the backdrop of the Shelburne Museum’s quintessential Round Barn. One visitor said it “looks like a jungle gym after a tornado hit.”
In the middle, a twisted mass of fence wire outlines what looks like three clouds, while straighter wires function as support on the periphery. Milling around this wild framework on September 17 were 48 CCS 4th graders, holding large stones with their names written on them, eagerly awaiting their chance to help sculpture artist Dan Snow of Dummerston finish building an art installation titled “Stone Clouds.”
The event was part of the “Eyes on the Land” project, which is a partnership between the Vermont Land Trust, Shelburne Museum, a group of artists, and owners of conserved land. Last year, 13 Vermont artists were paired with conservation properties from all over the state and were asked to create “visual essays” exploring how the landscape can be viewed and experienced through a variety of artistic lenses.
The 13 artists chosen for this project were: Tyler Wilkinson-Ray (film), Mark Nielsen (paint), Cameron Davis (paint), John Willis (photography), Caleb Kenna (photography), Brian D. Collier (multi-media), Dan Snow (sculpture), Karolina Kawiaka (sculpture/installation), Bonnie Acker (paint), Gowri Savoor (sculpture), Charlie Hunter (paint), Susan Abbott (paint), and Neil Riley (paint).
Snow was partnered with the Mettowee valley near Dorset, Vermont. The inspiration for “Stone Clouds” came from all the softball-sized stones that are still harvested from this land every year. “When I saw the fields—they are still continually littered with cobbles—it got me thinking about where they came from,” said Snow. “And, in fact, they fell out of the glaciers. So I thought how about putting that stone back up in the air because it would have been over our heads when in the glacier.”
One by one, the CCS students stepped onto a raised platform and, aided by Dan’s soft-spoken directions, placed their rounded individual stones in the wire cage. Raised aloft and bunched together, the glacial stones seemed to take on a puffier look than when seen individually on the ground.
Despite the beautiful sunny day, Snow’s wife and business manger, Elin Waagen, said, “The best time to come see this is on a foggy morning. They look so good in the mist.”
Snow’s usual medium as an artist is dry stone construction, which is one of the most ancient forms of building—the pyramids in Egypt, Peruvian temples and many walls in the UK are timeless examples of this. Throughout New England Snow has built awe-inspiring curved walls, timeless staircases and graceful arches—all with nothing but gravity and patience. Photos of Snow’s work can be seen in his two books, “In the Company of Stone” and “Listening to Stone” (both published by Artisan) or on his website at dansnowstoneworks.com.
Snow has also worked internationally in Finland, Denmark and the UK. Most recently he unveiled a large-scale project called “Rock Springs” at Glenmorangie Distillery in Tain, Scotland.
Snow’s granddaughter Marlie Cartwright is a 4th grader at CCS and was one of the first to place a stone in the cloud. Marlie’s friend, Ava, said of Snow, “Your grandpa is awesome.”
“Eyes on the Land” will be exhibited at Shelburne Museum from Oct. 3 through Jan. 3. More information is available at eyesontheland.org.
“Stone Clouds” was funded, in part, by a grant from the Vermont Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.