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Interview with sculptor CARL BERNEY, August, 2002


Q: Your subject matter includes figures, abstracts, and animals. How do you decide what to carve?

CB: I carve what the Muse sends me. And I carve what resonates with me personally. I tend toward the enduring themes of nature and humanity. I also look for shapes and forms that translate well into my medium, stone. Swirling, undulating and sensuous forms are what stonecarvers dream about.

Q: Is there a common element in your work?

CB: I guess if I had to name one it would be that my pieces make strong statements about the feminine principle.

Q: I understand that you mean "feminine" as in yin-yang, the feminine principle in the universe, and not necessarily "female."

CB: Yes, that's right. For example, I love feline forms and have carved a number of cats. I'm now working on a large cheetah. Cats are such flowing creatures and have so many sculptural poses. They are absolutely regal beings. I've also carved a nine-ft. tall female Oracle figure out of limestone, and my latest piece is a classical female torso. My reclining figures and most of my abstracts are based on the female form. Another recent work is a desert tortoise. I was attracted to the tortoise's strong, sculptural shape, which is both an oval and a dome. You can see its beauty and its functionality.

Q: What about the abstracts?

CB: I don't direct where the shapes come from and don't apply conscious thinking to these forms. I let them emerge from the stone and once the basic form has emerged, I refine it.

Q: And you work primarily in stone, with bronze castings from the stone?

CB: Yes, stone and bronze. I made sculpture in other mediums&emdash;wood, resin, and plastic&emdash;before discovering stone. When I made my first stone piece, I knew I'd found my medium. After carving in stone for years, I began casting some of my pieces in bronze.

Q: Why work in stone?

CB: That's a good question. It's a challenging medium, and it requires a lot of discipline because once stone has been removed from a piece, it can't be put back. I love the simplicity of carving a piece of the earth itself into a work of art. Bronze involves much more of a process but it's a good medium because it allows me to share a work with more people. I like working in both these mediums because I feel their connection to the ancients. I also love placing sculpture out of doors in nature, which is possible with these mediums.

Q: What kind of stone do you work in?

CB: My favorites are marble and limestone because both of these can be placed outside. Marble is the best all-around stone in my view. I enjoy working in alabaster occasionally because of the colors in it, and also in colored marble, which is a harder stone than the white. Limestone is excellent for outside monumental pieces because it's very durable.

Q: How would you describe your training for this work?

CB: Initially, I was self-taught but I learned the craft primarily from my study in Italy where I worked alongside stonecarvers in Pietrasanta. I've learned a lot working with other stone sculptors in this country. The training never ends&emdash;there are always new things to learn. I find that my techniques are constantly being refined and my aesthetic sense deepened.

Q: Is stonecarving gaining in popularity?

CB: It is, as a recreational activity, but it's still not taught in most art schools. There are more workshops around the country, and it's being rediscovered as a serious medium.

Q: What is it about the process of making art that attracts you?

CB: When a sculpture is coming out right, I get a transcendental surge that is like nothing else. I suppose that's because I like to make things. I'm driven to create, and I choose to create in stone.

Q: Do you have a goal for the future?

CB: I'm focusing on the figure in greater depth. And I plan to keep carving and exploring the medium of stone and its unique aesthetic.


© Carl Berney, all rights reserved.