Stone carvers work on display at museum

Ask local sculptor Bob Morris how long it took him to carve any one of his pieces and he will answer “All my life.”
Question the artist on where he was born and his reply is similarly ambiguous–so much so that you have to repeat the question to the curator of his exhibition “Illusions,” now on display at the Fort Frances Museum, just to get a definitive answer.
Now, imagine what it is like to speak to Morris about his art.
Not surprisingly, the sculptor is hesitant to pin concrete themes on any of his work, preferring instead to allow viewers to arrive at their own conclusions.
“There’s no right interpretation. One person would see something in them that I don’t; I might see something that others don’t,” he reasoned Thursday as he and museum staff unpacked the elegant stone and wood carvings to get them ready for exhibition.
Morris’ sculptures will be on display there alongside the prints of Ojibway artist Greg Bird until the end of next month.
Morris, who trained at the University of Minnesota and spent 10 years as a ceremonial pipemaker, said he strives to find the spirit of the stone he is working with.
He noted he is often surprised to see what he has created “once the fever of carving loosens its grip.”
“The pieces are abstract. Simply because that’s what I see if I’m looking at the inside of a storm or a bear’s dream,” he explained.
This same rule of ambiguity is reflected in the titles he assigns his pieces, Morris said. “Whatever I call it is just kind of an arbitrary name.”
However, titles like “Through a Glass Darkly” and “No Rules Game” are too evocative to be anything but deliberately thought-provoking–and playful.
The first piece is basically a pair of ordinary reading glasses fitted with circles of black stone in place of lenses.
“I made a pair for one of my friends . . . he watches TV with them,” Morris joked. Then, more seriously, he reflected on one of the many possible “meanings” the glasses might have.
“It’s somewhat like Thoreau when he said, ‘What part of the world can’t you see from where you stand,’” he noted. “Or they’re for looking within.”
“No Rules Game” is just as it sounds–a kind of board game where the player can move the pieces however he/she likes. The sculpture consists of a handful of polished stones of different shapes which the viewer can move around to create different patterns.
Then there’s “Shore Lunch,” another playful piece evoking local traditions and pastimes. Consisting entirely of black and red polished stone, the sculpture resembles a frying pan featuring the day’s catch.
Museum curator Pam Hawley said she is excited to have Morris’ work on display here.
“It’s something that people haven’t seen around here from a local artist. Most of what we show are paintings or prints instead of sculpture,” she reflected.
“It’s also using a material that you do find locally, that has a traditional background to it.
“Just the ideas themselves are interesting. Often when you look at a piece of art, you can tell what it’s about right away, but that’s not the case here,” she remarked.