For sculptor Eddie Lavin, the earth is the embodiment of the most profoundly artistic genius imaginable. That may explain the passion behind his most recent creation: a 750-foot square relief sculpture of the Patuxent Watershed.
“All of my education comes from nature,” says Lavin, who has spent the last four months working outdoors on the project. “I’ve rendered something that pays homage to the planet.”
The sculpture is a commission by the Elm Street development company, for an entryway to a project which sits near the Patuxent Wildlife Refuge. The eight-ton piece is essentially a three-dimensional map of the refuge, including the Patuxent River and its tributaries, carved into thermal bluestone. Ideally, rainwater will flow through the crevices. The stone itself is rooted deeply in the earth’s prehistoric geology, formed about 360 million years ago when the sea pushed sediment into a delta now known as Susquehanna County in Pennsylvania. It’s a soothing shade of blue-gray and strong, though fragile at the edges. Each paver weighs about 200 pounds.
“I meditate and they levitate,” Lavin, who works alone, jokes when asked about moving the pieces. He built a 325 foot platform with two open channels so he could push and pull the stone from place to place. “The deck had to be absolutely level,” Lavin says. “Every corner had to match perfectly. It was the most difficult part.”
Lavin created a 350’ platform to support the “Watershed” sculpture.
He’s only half kidding about the meditating. That’s how the artist begins each morning, along with a cup of coffee. He says anxiety would put the work at risk.
“I calm my spirit, so my hands are still,” Lavin explains. “They must have perfect dexterity to the last atom of each fingertip—perfect harmony between right and left. If I miss once, I could crush it.” He attributes his abilities, in part, to a strict diet and ritual dictated by his muses.
“The man, the real me is naïve enough to think I can take a perfect piece of marble and pull an angel out of it, just by picking up a hammer and going at it. But I’m just a foot soldier. It’s a higher power that allows me to go into something for eight hours. It’s a different level of consciousness. I become like a child rendering images—a seven-year-old who found a knight’s costume and is flailing a lance around. I’m certain I can slay the dragon,” he laughs.
But then, he does it. He chisels a spectacular piece of art. Or they do. The muses, he says, are very strict.
“There are things that I’ve seen my hands do—things I’m not capable of—I’ve looked at things I’ve created and not understood how I did it.”
Lavin, as you might expect, has made a studio of the outdoors, behind the South County Arts Lab, where he also has an indoor loft. He says he’s been in heaven working in and out of the space, which is owned and was renovated by south county businessman Hamilton Chaney then brought to life by the art lab’s five founders.
Lavin, working on his soon-to-be completed project.
“I could only accept this commission because of the space. It’s given me great opportunity.”
Even in the midst of the pandemic, the solitude of the outdoors allowed him to keep working.
“I look around and I see the earth as art. It’s the highest form of creative intelligence. I want to co-exist, to create a symbiotic relationship with nature. This project and this space has allowed me to do that.”
The piece, “Watershed” is scheduled for installation in early July.