Standing in the Armory Art Gallery looking at the Backyard Stone Carvers exhibit, open from June 4 to 28 in Blacksburg, I was amazed by the nine artists' work. There are pieces ranging from intriguing abstract art to stark modern art. The pieces also range in size from very small, fitting into the palm of your hand, to very large, looking as if it could take days, weeks, even months to finish.
The Backyard Stone carvers consist of nine artists, all with very different artistic flair while working with different types of stone. Soapstone and Alabaster were some of the more popular stones that I observed while looking at the gallery, each with different colors and striations to make them unique. Each Friday, the stone carvers gather to enjoy each other's company while working on a new or continuing piece.
It's remarkable how many people find the art of stone carving an exciting new hobby. Darcy Meeker, one of the nine artists, introduced the group to the art of carving. She was inspired by watching the movie Moonstruck.
"I watched it when it first came out, and then realized during it that I was sleepwalking through my life. I started looking for something to get me excited about life, and art was it," Meeker said.
She decided to take a stone carving class and fell in love with the craft.
"I had some friends, we were doing an art play group once a week," Meeker said, "They asked me to help teach them how to stone carve. I introduced them to it, but Bob Lockhart was our instructor."
Meeker has been an inspiration to the group, but she admits that the work is not always easy.
"The hardest part about this is to let the part of yourself that says something is good or bad judge your work. Your brain has jobs to do, but not while making art. This is a different kind of discipline than what we are raised to believe in ... the kind where you get out of that way, and let your true self come out," Meeker said.
Bob Lockhart teaches a stone carving workshop once a week every spring in Gatlinburg, Tenn., at the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. A teacher as well as an artist, Lockhart has gained a loyal following to learn his craft. When six of his participants from Blacksburg asked him to come to their hometown to share his gift, he gladly accepted.
"I was very flattered," Lockhart said. "Those women are very accomplished, and it was very exciting to have that opportunity."
Lockhart uses spontaneity to guide his work, making each piece new, exciting, and different.
"You realize that every piece is on its way to becoming a great piece," Lockhart said.