I was deeply saddened to learn that Gary Haven Smith passed away September 28th, just days after discovering his work at the Ogunquit Museum. I emailed him to share yesterday’s blog post and proposed a visit to his studio sometime, and received a kind reply from his widow, Susan Pratt-Smith, also an accomplished artist.
This morning, as I jogged under a dawning sky where the waning crescent sliver moon shone bright, grateful for another day of life and health, I thought again of the hours I spent with Gary’s sculptures on the lovely museum grounds. In retrospect, I think that the sheer joy I felt infusing my body and mind as I meandered around and around the works originates in the power and pleasure of material transformation. Smith’s work transforms granite boulders into elegant dynamic forms and flows; gigantic glacier-carved megaliths seem to become floating topological models molded by the slow wearing of water. Yet, from his words on exhibition placards, I imagine he might have told me that he only brings out what is already there in granite.
And so I see Smith’s work as both alchemical or magical in its power to make granite fly, and organic and empathetic in its sensitivity to granite’s density and grace. More than that though, Smith’s work transformed my fundamental feeling about granite, my most basic perceptions and ideas about the stone. And that, of course, is the wonder of art–to transform our relation to the world, delighting and shocking us into discovering a new world in rediscovering the world we knew.
Smith’s work “Ascension II” (2011, granite and gold leaf) seems the appropriate piece to post today. Thank you, Gary Haven Smith, for your beautiful work. An obituary detailing his marvelously creative life may be found here.