Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Earth Art

I recently had the chance to visit Opus 40, a mind-boggling landscape sculpture a few miles outside of Saugerties, New York.  The piece is the life work of Harvey Fite, a sculptor and instructor at Bard College in the mid 20th century.

Beginning in 1938, Fite quarried, transported, carved and laid out his own stone all by himself.  The central tower is 9 tons and, incredibly, he lifted it on his own by building a wooden structure of Egyptian design and lowering the monolith into place.

At just about every turn, around every corner, I was blown away.  How could one person build this?  Was this man insane?

From what I can gather, no.  He was, however, inspired.  And, after climbing on, in, around and through Opus 40, all the while surrounded by mountains, trees and sky, I can see how one person could be struck by the beauty and precision of Nature so much that creativity takes over completely.

Fite had a 40-year plan for the sculpture, but was tragically killed at the site 37 years into the project.  These pictures do not do it justice...if you ever have the opportunity to experience this truly unique and individual work of art, it's worth the trip.

Opus 40

Fite's house, which he also built by hand.

Opus 40

Fite carved all the sculptures on the grounds.  Opus 40 was originally intended to showpiece them, but as it took on an identity of its own, the sculptures were shifted from the central focal-point.

Opus 40

I loved the color contrast between the stones, plants and trees.  As the light changed, so did the tones.

Opus 40

Opus 40

I took these pictures on an incredibly hot and humid day.  It was overcast, about 95 degrees with a slight drizzle.  Descending into this crevasse, I could feel the temperature drop about 20 degrees and I didn't want to resurface.

Opus 40

Opus 40

No mortar was used in any of the construction.  The entire structure is held together by the careful placement of stones and its own weight.

Opus 40

Opus 40

See more photos here.