The Hiker: A Memorial for John LedBetter

The Hiker: Memorial Mosaic

The Hiker: Memorial Mosaic

John Winslow LedBetter was a beloved husband, father, doctor and Scoutmaster. He passed away last March and is missed by family and friends. Last summer, his widow Gwenda, approached me about creating a memorial to him. The original idea was for a cairn, as a symbol of John’s endless love for the mountains. The idea resonated but presented challenges at the cemetery, where a single boulder looms over a neighboring gravesite. With the vertical space already claimed, we opted to paint on a horizontal canvas.

The Hiker: Source design

The Hiker: Source design

During the first conversation I had with Gwenda about the project, she gave me a simple card that was shared with everyone at John’s funeral. She noted with some pride that the sketch was a logo that John had drawn for his Scout troop. The iconic hiker image became the starting point of my design.

The Hiker: detail

The Hiker: detail

The gravesite, in the historic Riverside Cemetery in the Montford section of Asheville, is long and lean, at 4′ by 10′. This had a significant impact on how I drew the design. The hiker rests briefly, taking in the sun setting over the Blue Ridge Mountains. The original artwork has an everyman silhouette, which I have replaced with John’s profile, drawn from pictures his family provided.

 

The Hiker: detail

The Hiker: detail

The construction process has gone slowly, mostly because of some gravity testing I did with a very large stone and my finger. Gravity still works; finger still recovering. I cut John’s figure from scraps of a countertop material called Absolute Black. The sunset is sandstone from Tennessee. The mountains, now underway, are Pennsylvania bluestone.

I hope to begin installation this week. More images to come.

The Blue Spiral

Last week I traveled down to Florida and installed the “Blue Spiral” which I’ve been working on for the past few weeks.

I drove down on Monday and the stone arrived the next morning. It was a soggy day, but mild compared to the weather Gainesville had endured all summer. It never topped 90 on my whole trip, but the week before it had been pushing 100.


It took me a day and a half to pack up all the stones for travel. I used cardboard between each layer on a pallet and shimmed under stones to keep everything level and tight. Lots of strips of cardboard went between the stones on each layer, so that there wouldn’t be any movement and vulnerable points wouldn’t be broken. Then I shrink-wrapped the heck out of it. It all traveled beautifully; there was no damage to any of the 105 pieces. Thanks to Dennis at Dayrunner Systems for taking such care with my delivery.


It took three very full days to install, plus some final tweaks in Friday morning before I started my drive home. My favorite part of the installation process was seeing the stone in natural light. I had built it in the shop, but it was always deeply shaded in there, with a few florescent lights overhead. Thursday evening, when it was substantially complete and the sun was setting, I really got to see the richness of the color in the composition. It was a very gratifying moment.


Here’s the piece in its new home. I placed some sod around the edges, but I think the landscape crew will make some adjustments to that, maybe even add a gravel path. It’s sited at the Gainesville Regional Utilities Eastside Operations Center. It’s a huge new campus, with seven new buildings, all of which will be certified LEED Silver. It’s an impressive place.

On Thursday, my friend Mary Padua brought a group of students from the University of Florida to the site site. She is a professor in the Landscape Architecture program at UF and a gifted designer and photographer. The students are studying implementation and construction drawings. I talked briefly about the project, about the work in general and designing with stone. I’m hoping that someone took a picture or two that I can post here in the near future, with notes on the conversation.

I owe a debt of deep gratitude to John Hayes, the Public Art Coordinator of the City of Gainesville’s Art in Public Places Trust and his board for giving me this opportunity. I am also very grateful to Reid Rivers, GRU’s Project Manager, who was incredibly helpful and supportive in shepherding the project along.


It’s not exactly a maker’s mark, but I did sign the bottom of stone 8.1 with a Sharpie.

The Blue Spiral is an original Artwork commissioned by and in the public art collection of the City of Gainesville.

Public Art: Furled

104 templates cut and curled up in a bucket. Tomorrow I start messing around with the way it all fits together. It’s easy to get lured in to fixing each stone as I lay it, but in reality, it’s often one stone, somewhere else in the design that is pushing the stones too close together or too far apart. Find the offending party and fix it and then the rest will find their place.