The beauty and versatility of natural stone are among the many reasons homeowners and builders gravitate to the material for their projects. Artists often are drawn to stone for similar reasons.
For artist and sculptor Sebastian Martorana, the challenge and beauty of the material was enough when he first began working with natural stone. “As I have grown, I now see natural stone as the best vehicle for the concepts that I want to explore,” Martorana admits. “Each stone, just like each sculpture, is unique. That cannot be said of anything that is cast or mass produced.”
Sculpture Robin Antar agrees. In her abstract work, her challenge is to make heavy stone look like it is twisting, bending, and light. “I like the fact that it’s heavy and I can transform it into a sculpture which has movement and form so people don’t realize the weight of it,” Antar shares. “I also work to bring out the beauty of the stone in each piece, carving it in a way that showcases its natural properties.” Her Realism in Stone series also transcends the weight perception. “I sculpted a pair of jeans in limestone,” she shares. “Nobody realizes it weighs 80 pounds—it just looks like a pair of jeans.”
Natural Stone Tells a Story
Many of Martorana’s sculptures are made from salvaged material. In addition to the material’s geological origins and cultural association with memorial and permanence, each stone has its own specific history, which he appreciates and finds important.
The type of stone Antar uses depends on the mood of the piece since she says different stones give off different moods. She offers honeycomb calcite to illustrate her point.
Jorge Vascano understands how Antar and Martorana when it comes to the visceral feelings associated with using natural stone to create works of art. He’s currently an artist-in-residence at the North American Sculpture Center (NASC), an annex of Precision Stone Inc. which has been serving the architectural and design community over the last 35 years. The stone Vascano chose to work with during a merit award sculpture residency in Carrara, Italy in 2017 was Bardiglio Nuvolato, a beautiful white and grayish stone full of veins.
What It Means to Sculpt Using Natural Stone
Martorana likes to remind people that natural stone is a natural material, so the irregularity that comes with that should be expected and enjoyed. “If you want something that is going to be aesthetically consistent, you can find that in a cast material,” he says. “Natural stone can provide patterns within patterns that have been millions of years in the making. If you don’t appreciate that quality, then natural stone is not for you.”
Vascano feels artists are drawn to natural stone because it has a natural poetry. Unlike other types of material that can be used to create sculptures or art, he says using natural stone is completely different. For one, it’s hard and requires patience. “You have to learn the feel of each stone to work with because each of them is different,” Vascano adds, noting that is also requires an understanding of how the material needs to be handled, while its composition and its physics also need to come into play in order to take advantage of the possibilities each stone has to offer as well as their limitations.