During the 30 plus years I worked at quarries throughout the Midwest, I spent weeks at a time on site while the granite quarry blocks I’d chosen were fabricated into the finished pieces that would compose my site-specific installations. While blocks were being machine cut or put to other machine processes, I had time to roam nearby acres piled with granite that–thanks to seams or veins, discoloration or spots–were considered scrap, as in unsuitable for architectural or industrial purposes.
There was no intent other than walking and looking and getting away from the factory noises and dirt. But once seen, pieces of stone began to engage my imagination. And though I had never been interested in creating object sculpture, I began to see possibilities everywhere amidst the discarded stone pieces.
One ubiquitous type of stone discards were ‘roughbacks’ – the naturally clefted end of a quarry block that was being cut into regular clean slabs. Roughbacks have one natural cleft surface and a flat cut back. They can vary in thickness from inches to several feet. Most blocks cut out of a quarry wall are quite large: 5-6’ wide, 8-12’ tall. So the resulting roughbacks were of considerable sizes.
I measured and photographed the roughbacks and eventually, through the help of Los Angeles gallerist, Fred Hoffman, I was able to make my first sculpture with this material, “Stalled Cairn.” This piece, along with other related sculptures, were exhibited at his gallery in Los Angeles, in 1991, and then in New York City in 1992.
The sculptures have the scale of works meant to be seen outdoors as part of the complex, changing spectacle the natural world presents.
-Elyn Zimmerman, 2017