Published in the Almanac, February 19, 2009
DJ Garrity makes faces emerge from stone. “It’s almost as though you have a T-shirt and you’re pulling it over your face and the shape of the face is poking through the fabric suggesting features,” he said.
The haunting countenance that the 60-year-old sculptor spoke of comes to life as he carves faces into life-size slabs of marble, basalt, alabaster and limestone. What results in the stone appears to have emotion and gives the impression of gazing back at the spectator.
A self-proclaimed journeyman who explores abstract expression, Garrity takes his technique across the country in the form of lectures and workshops at botanical gardens and museums where he attempts to convey his approach to landscape sculpture. He will come to Filoli’s opening event Daffodil Daydreams on Feb. 27 for a lecture about how to incorporate sculpture into hardscape design.
Garrity’s lecture series offers natural approaches to landscape art through his artistic concept known as the “process aesthetic,” which he described as “the emergence of the human vestige from a block of raw stone.” A colossal example of this technique would be Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse memorials, he said.
This method offers a meaningful way that landscape sculpture can explore the boundaries between art and nature.
The artist’s lectures stem from work he formulated while serving as the Sculptor-In-Residence at Mount Rushmore National Memorial where he sculpted, taught classes and trained employees how to talk to visitors about sculpture.
Although Garrity received early encouragement from Ted Fagan, a sculptor from County Cork, Ireland, he is a self-taught sculptor who earlier carved figures and images in wood. He lived in western Massachusetts for 40 years, but now he lives in a small seaside village on the northwest coast of Oregon.
Garrity’s lecture is part of Filoli’s annual multi-day, kickoff program that highlights one of its plant collections. In the past couple of years camellias and magnolias have inspired the themes, but this year the program’s namesake comes from daffodils, the Narcissus Tazetta species in particular. This new species of daffodil was developed to be particularly well suited for the Bay Area climate by William Welch, known endearingly as “The Bulb Baron” by the Filoli community.
Thousands of Daffodils will be blooming on Daffodil Hill, around Filoli’s Visitor Center, and in a new garden area at Filoli where 25,000 more plants took root this year. There will be a talk by Lucy Tolmach, Filoli’s director of horticulture, who will discuss how her favorite varieties of daffodils can be used in beds and pots, and naturalized in gardens.
“Once you plant them you are done,” Tolmach said. “They are the easiest and hardiest of the garden flowers, giving you more with each passing year.”
Visitors to Daffodil Daydreams have the opportunity to learn more about sculpture and other garden art in an exhibit called Art in the Garden and through DJ Garrity’s lecture.
“DJ is a very knowledgeable yet a very down-to-earth person, an easy person to learn from,” Cathy Rampley, education program administrator at Filoli, said. “I thought Filoli should have him do a lecture where more people could benefit from his knowledge and experience.”
Garrity said he hoped that his lecture “Sculpture: The Soul of Hardscape” will get attendees to understand how dramatic sculpture can be when used in landscape and how easily people can bring it into their lifestyle. The lecture will also highlight a “green” approach to incorporating natural stone art into new or existing hardscape.
Filoli brought Garrity in last August to instruct a three-day workshop where attendees created their own sculptures from stone. He plans to return May 15-18 for a “Study with DJ Garrity: The Rhythms of Stone” workshop.
Garrity’s workshops tend to attract gardeners, the life-long learning community and people who want to work with stone but never thought it possible. He’ll be teaching how to carve faces into 45- to 50-pound blocks of limestone or alabaster. He tries to find stones that are local to the area in which he is conducting his workshops.
Garrity recalled an 82-year-old windsurfer and aspiring sculptor as a particularly inspiring student — as was one of the youngest students he has taught, a girl of about 14, who was having a difficult time for the first couple days of the workshop. “She couldn’t get the face to come through, but finally on last day it came through,” he said.
Once the girl got the expression she was striving for, Garrity remembered she said that she would never look at a stone anymore without seeing a face in it.
This is exactly what Garrity wanted her to take away: an imaginative enjoyment of sculpting process, and a realization that anyone can bring life to landscape sculpture.
What: Daffodil Daydreams
When: Feb. 27- March 1, 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Where: Filoli, 86 Canada Road, Woodside
Cost: Adults $12; students $5; children under 5 free
Info: 650-364-8300, www.filoli.org
What: Sculpture: The Soul of Hardscape
When: Feb. 27, 3-4 p.m.
Where: Filoli, 86 Canada Road, Woodside
Cost: $30 for members, $35 for non-members (includes entrance fee). Reservations required.
Info: To register contact Cathy Rampley at 650-364-8300. www.filoli.org, www.djgarrity.com