Interview with sculptor CARL BERNEY, August,
Q: Your subject matter includes figures,
abstracts, and animals. How do you decide what to
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
CB: I guess if I had to name one it would
be that my pieces make strong statements about the feminine
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
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
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
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
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.