Stonework and carving at the Kara Taylor Gallery


Kara Taylor is showing the work of two sculptors working in different media and vastly different styles, and it’s well worth a visit to her eponymous West Tisbury gallery.

Inside, Taylor has reserved the main gallery space for the work of Adrian Smith, a stone carver who has created a series of nature-inspired carvings done on cleft slate quarried in New York and Vermont, and roofing tiles salvaged from old barns. The delicate, detailed images include those of birds and fish, insects and creatures of the sea. The contrast of the variously colored tiles with the white carving makes for a very appealing, almost fossil-like look in some cases.

Smith learned the art of stone carving from masters of the craft in Nepal, where he currently spends six months out of each year.

“When I was first in Nepal, I found all of these beautiful carvings in temples,” he says. “There are entire temples filled with statues and carved stone all over the Kathmandu Valley.”

Smith learned the art by carving stone Buddhas in Nepal. Among his teachers was a man whose family lineage goes back to carvers for the royal family. Smith stayed in Nepal full-time for three years, studying and making statuary. Working with stone led Smith to discover the beauty of slate. The colors, markings, and texture of the reclaimed tiles and cleft slate that he carves on add to the beauty and uniqueness of each piece.

“The tiles in particular have some interesting colors, having been on a roof for over 100 years,” says Smith. “Natural cleft slate, as opposed to honed slate, has all of these irregularities that give it character.”

On his website, Smith writes,“Stone’s elemental nature, its natural, enduring quality, and the focus of mind derived from working with a mallet and chisel in a creative process have continued to captivate me.”

The tiles are weatherproof, and can be hung either outdoors or indoors. Smith notes that people often mix them in with kitchen or bathroom tiles. He does custom orders, and also carves memorial stones and personalized outdoor plaques for businesses or homes.

In stark contrast to the decorative tiles, outside the gallery one will find immense metal sculptures by Brian Abbott Jr. Eight-, nine-, and 10-foot sculptures have seemingly sprouted from the landscape. These large pieces include a huge dahlia mounted on a rock, and a series featuring clusters of slender sphere-topped stemlike shafts.

Taylor first discovered these striking sculptures when they were “planted” in Abbott’s field next to the cemetery in Lambert’s Cove. She was intrigued, and set out to find out who was responsible for these interesting public sculptures. She discovered that they were the work of a former schoolmate who can trace his Island roots back for many generations.

Abbott, who is a mason by trade, owns a landscaping business on the Island (he is also a musician who plays with local bands). He taught himself to weld as a means of repairing his own equipment. From there, his creative nature came to the forefront, and he decided to start making art with metal.

As well as traditional metal sculptures, Abbott creates work using chasing and repoussé techniques. These involve hammering metal to create patterns. In chasing, the work is hammered from the outside to emboss the surface. Repoussé involves hammering from the backside to create raised patterns.

Examples of this work, in a much smaller scale, can be found intermingled with the others.

In searching for a description of his more unusual abstract pieces, Abbott calls them “somewhat of a cross between biological and geometrical shapes.” The work really needs to be seen to be appreciated.

Abbott basically creates the metal and stone pieces just for himself, not for commercial purposes. He says he doesn’t really care if any of his pieces sell. He’s just happy to give them some more exposure. “I’ll just put them back in my field,” he says.

The exhibit of hand-carved stone tiles by Adrian Smith and metal sculptures by Brian Abbott Jr. will be on view through Sept. 11 at the Kara Taylor Gallery, 24 South Road, Chilmark. Taylor’s own mixed-media work will also be hanging in the entrance gallery.