Gin Stone sculpts found materials into colorful creatures
Posted Jul 12, 2019
“I was always a painter. If you’d told me I was going to be a sculptor,” Gin Stone says, holding colorful strands of repurposed fishing line that form the arched neck of a bear’s torso, “I would have laughed. Never in a million years would I imagine.”
At her first day in sculpture class at Hartford Art School, her assignment was, loosely, to make something, and Stone, attempting to melt wax on a wooden base, accidently started a fire. The instructor tossed a bucket of water in the direction of Stone’s disaster. She recalls him saying, ” ‘So, what are you going to do now?’ ”
Stone stayed in art school for two and a half years before taking a position as a graphic artist and designer in Manhattan. Shortly after 9/11, she sought and found refuge on the Cape. Interviewed recently in her galvanized steel house in East Harwich, a minimalist, environmentally conscious home filled with art, family photos, and artifacts from beach walks, Stone thinks back on her own reclaimed life. Full-length windows overlook a clearing bordered by the intense greens of spruce and hemlock — a “Manhattan loft floating over a meadow,” she says. She designed and served as contractor for the house and its spacious, south-facing studio. “I love it here. I love everybody knowing everybody. That’s my favorite part of it.”
Another attraction of her Mid Cape location is access to galleries, where she can curate and design complex installations, as she did for the Cambridge Art Association this past fall. She’s a member there, and at Fountain Street Gallery in Boston. At Provincetown’s On Center Gallery, or OCG, Stone exhibits sculptural creations, part human, part animal, inspired by Norse mythology of gods and goddesses and embellished by her fertile imagination.
New pieces from Stone’s constantly expanding menagerie can be viewed at a show with an opening reception this Sunday at OCG. Expect to be enchanted by colorful and monotone creatures whose texture and personality is derived from locally sourced longline fishing gear, such as interwoven roping, which Stone hand-dyes. One piece, “Shaman Bear,” has a ceremonial headdress, “which is actually another little animal, so it looks like the bear is creating his own myth,” Stone says. Another, a Pegasus, has copper wings, repurposed from the chimney of an antique Cape Cod home, which appear buoyed by movement and air. “I want to leave the history of a thing,” she says. “I love found objects.”
And she fashions them herself, down to the most minute details of hammering, shaping and carving metals, shells and wood. Inspiring finds keep Stone scouring Cape Cod’s abundant ocean wrack lines for malleable, local materials, which are her art supplies. “The material itself, and the local fishing culture, are part of the work’s narrative,” she says.
A deer’s wooden antlers are flowing and sculptural, exaggerating and transcending actual horns. “Chief,” an exuberant bear, has a totemic chest plate decorated with shells. Vats of color dye — blues, greens and reds — sit on the studio floor, ready to tint fishing lines that give each meticulously constructed creature a separate identity. It’s no stretch to imagine Stone as an abstract painter, which she was before trading that life, successful though ultimately unsatisfying as it was, for this particular quest: using recycled fishing line as a medium to portray the inner lives of creatures that have been slaughtered to near extinction, such as the buffalo, or are rooted in mythology — such as a fierce half-woman, half-bird that’s based on the Norse goddess Freyja. Stone often refers to her pieces as “humane taxidermy,” but in concept and execution, they are so much more.
“The Great Hill Buffalo,” exhibited at OCG in 2018, was, for this reporter, a great introduction to Stone’s activist art. For that piece, Stone used the fishing line in more natural tones of white and gray, shaded with blue. Its horns were tipped in gold, and its golden eyes followed the viewer with a gaze that was hard to turn from. The ring threaded through the buffalo’s nose, Stone says, “signifies how this sacred creature is being harnessed.” The blue strings of knotted gangions that form the buffalo’s elegant beard are like drips in a painting, adding a sense of loss and history as well as movement.
Describing her own history, Stone claims to be easily bored by repetition. But in sculpting with locally sourced, recycled fishing gear, layered with narrative, “I don’t ever get bored,” she says.
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