New Hampshire artist Joe Gray doesn’t shy away from a challenge. “Stone is the most difficult medium to work with,” he says.
Alnoba is currently home to more pieces by Gray than any other artist. They can be found nestled along our trails throughout Alnoba’s forests, where they feel like ancient artifacts rising out of the landscape.
Gray creates his pieces using the ancient, hands-on technique of hammer and chisel. “There are thousands of chips of stone lying around my sculpture,” he says. “I have taken an eight ton block of granite and turned it into a small girl walking out of fire in a Holocaust tribute. To most people that would seem impossible. I do not think that way.”
A lot of my stone is leftover stone from one of my many stone projects. I know the grain of stone and how it reacts to my hammer and chisel.
Stonework has been part of Gray’s life for four decades, beginning with his work as a stone mason on Martha’s Vineyard. He branched out into sculpture in the mid-nineties and fell in love with the art form. “My emotions would emerge in the stone,” he says. “Sadness, happiness and things I felt passionate about.”
As part Abenaki, Gray believes his Native American background plays a key role in his art. “It connects me with the earth and nature… When I am carving an ancestor or spirit animal, I do not know what I am carving when I start. I can feel my ancestors guiding me. It is a spiritual experience for me and I lose myself in every sculpture.”
For Gray, working with stone has much to teach us about life. “If you make a mistake, you cannot look back,” he says. “You have to move forward with the new piece. It teaches you to be accepting of things you cannot control.”
Gray is very happy that so much of his work has found a home here at Alnoba. “When I first heard of Alnoba and learned of their commitment to people and the earth, I knew my art would have to be there.”