From a VW bus to Michelangelo’s marble

| 29 Oct 2015 | 04:18

Daniel Grant is bent over, martello in hand, intently focused on the figure he is working in a haze of marble dust. Sunlight filters through the awning of the outdoor studio he built onto a barn at his Westtown, NY home. It lends the Carrara marble a luminous glow. Grant is soft-spoken, strong and wiry from years of working with wood and stone. Excitedly, he points out the arch of the figure’s back, now appearing out of the block. “I wish I could just work her non-stop...” he says, of his Eve, the piece he is sculpting for a show in the early fall.

He’s been chipping away all summer, whenever he has a moment off from the decorative furniture business he runs with his wife, artist Ingela Noren. It’s as if he’s fallen in love with the vision he sees in the marble, and can’t stop until it’s fully realized.

This love affair with the artistic process goes way back. Raised in California where he studied art and philosophy in college, Grant was always building something. One of the first was a soap box derby with a parachute. Later he customized a VW bus with an oak cask for water and stained glass windows. After a cross-country odyssey he ended up in New York, living and working out of a loft in Hell’s Kitchen.

Still searching for a medium, Grant traveled to Pietrasanta, Italy. Carrara marble, favored by Michelangelo, comes from this area of northern Tuscany. Here Grant studied the techniques of the local journeymen stone carvers. “I’ve always had this desire to lose myself, learn through the elbow right next to the pros.”

He returned to the States with two new passions: stone carving, and his partner, Ingela. Inside the old farmhouse they moved into in 1988, are many fine examples of the couple’s artwork. In the kitchen a carved and polished basalt head stands on a base of burnished willow from the property. Hanging next to it is one of Noren’s woven pieces. Grant’s oil landscapes are scattered about the walls.

As the couple works, their two sons play with friends in the yard. Grant brushes loose chunks of marble off his worktable. Eve, he explained, represents a balance between fear and hope, the snake and the apple. “We’re all looking for paradise in some way. Adam and Eve,” he said, is a “story of being in the moment, finding the right balance.”

Grant began working on Eve when his elder son Adam was conceived 16 years ago, but had to put the piece aside when life got in the way.

“You have phases in life—first love, for example. If it’s real it comes back to you tenfold.”

For sculpture classes with Grant: 845-726-4281, His exhibition at the Mindy Ross Gallery at SUNY Newburgh will run through November 20. It includes Eve and other sculptures, paintings, and some of the decorative furniture he makes with his wife.