Bradford Graves

The Mythology of Stone

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"Spiral Jetty" by Robert Smithson

"The earth is a ball of rock 7927 miles in diameter, weighing

about 6.6 trillion tons. It is composed of a dense core as

heavy as iron and several massive rock layers - denser near

the core and lighter towards the surface. The continents

themselves are island of granite rock floating on the denser,

darker rocks which underlie the ocean basins and go down

perhaps 600 miles."

Herbert Zim, Rocks and Minerals, p. 7

"The specific gravity of calcite (CaCO3) is 2.7; where as the

specific gravity of dolomite is 2.9, so that the dolomite varieties are naturally slightly heavier."

Jack Rich, Materials and Methods of Sculpture, p.224

"Stone comes from the ME Ston, earlier stan from OE stara: ofOFris and OS sten, OHG-MHG-G stein,

GO stains, MD stein, stien, MD-D stien, ON pebble; IE r, *stai-, varr*stei-, *sti-a stone; perhult akin to *

sta-to stand."

Eric Partride, Origins: The Encyclopedia of Words p. 670

"Go to a lonely place and rub a stone in a circle on a rock for hours and days on end."

Peter Freuchen, Book of the Eskimos, p. 158

These are four ways of stating our relationship to stone. The first: All the

information of our world is known and defined. We understand this information

and can draw conclusions about the world, so that we understand its area. "600

miles deep” is beyond the ability of man to ever get there.

The second" Dissection. As with the first, we can establish an over-all view; we

can now take a particle, analyze it and find components that are within our own

human bodies.

The third: Dealing with the relationship between oneself and a material with an

attempt to understand that relationship rather then either of the two elements.

The fourth: To discover the psychological self by way of materials.

Basically, there is self and the object. How do we perceive objects? The first three are modern and very

much with us; they are the ways in which we are taught. Materials are known, therefore we can analyze

and exploit. We can use. We can define and take but we can't approach and let be. We can bring nature

into our world, but we can't enter hers.

The fourth way is a way we have lost: that matter is sacred and can give us knowledge of ourselves. It

is also the approach of finding something new. We don't know what a stone is or what rubbing a circle

will cause, but we do know it will give birth to something new.

Still another question is how does stone define man in relationship to itself? Would stone see man as a

disturber, or an extension of itself by the way we cut, grind, and stack stone in artificial mountains?

Since we can't go to the world of stone, I will have to concentrate on the four categories I state above.

All four are similar - man defining. It's only in number four that something new will be born. All of them

are equal in the mysterious: a vision of myself on the surface of a rock hurdling through space. Why as

I not blown off as I have seen particles of earth fly off a rock I have thrown. Who is going to say which

side of earth is down so that we can set the scale underneath and state "6.6 six trillion tons!"

What in the world is CaCOz and why does that define calcite? The CaCOz is like entering into the magic

squares of Durer's "Melancholia." Even if I understood Ca, that in time would become a mystery.

Perhaps a linguistic scholar can understand "*sti-a stone; perh ult akin to *sta", but to me it's still a


Rubbing a stone on a rock for days on end is something I know about in polishing a piece of stone

sculpture, but what about that Eskimo? The material is put into motion as part of your body and together

you enter into the motion your body is making on still a larger stone, as it in turn makes the same

motions as it travels through the universe and on and on. You become a link in the movement of the

universe as it circles through space. Thus you are equal, within, not outside, and defining.

So, it is only by way of the sacred that I wish to explore stone. The sacred being that quality, or power, projected into stones, to reveal man's place

in the universe. By going into history, I will perhaps discover reasons for my choice of stone as a sculptor to connect me with the universe.

Perhaps I won't.

>> Next


A Legacy Carved in Stone



Taking the Side of Things

Omphalos and Lapis Manalis



The Stones of Camus

Twentieth Century Stone Sculpture

Richardson 's Original Monster Rock


Robert Smithson

The Moon Gets its Rocks off on Earth

In Praise of Limestone

Essay by Laura Welikson








Brad's Writings 

Selected Essays


"Spiral Jetty" by Robert Smithson