Roy has been a popular topic for many newspapers in the vicinity of Albany, NY, and the Berkshire resorts of Western Massachusetts. His popularity increased dramatically when on July 6, 1997, he was written up in the Learning section of "The Boston Globe". That article is copied without permission below and the photos pictured chosen by the author of this Web page.

Bigger than life

Sculptor's magical monoliths crafted from stone, concrete
By Dorothy Chapman
Globe Correspondent
Spencertown, N.Y.-
Alert travelers heading north on the Taconic State Parkway are apt to be taken aback if they lift their eyes to the sprawling hills one mile south of town and see huge heads and other sculptures gathered like guests at a family outing.

If they are intrigued by the seemingly incongruous assemblage and investigate further by traveling

a winding dirt road to the summit, they'll find themselves at the Taconic Sculpture Park.

There, at his castle-like home, sculptor Roy Kanwit has created dozens of classic, yet surreal, stone and concrete sculptures that delight, and sometimes shock, the mind and eye.

The largest and most imposing is "Gaea" a three-ton, 20 foot high head that represents Mother Earth. Constructed with a skeleton of bent steel rods, galvanized fencing, fine wire mesh and layer upon layer of mortar, Gaea towers above the rest. It may be entered through a door in the side where visitors can climb two separate, rickety ladders and poke their heads through the top for a spectacular view of the distant Catskill Mountains. Gaea, Mother Earth

While not as large, other sculptures on Kanwit's 30 acre hilltop retreat are equally striking. One towering concrete sculpture, the 12 foot "Tulip Queen", resembles a sunflower in semi-human form, and another half woman, half flower titled "Goddess of the Western Sun," sits gracefully on a bench. The first large piece Kanwit did in concrete is the 8-foot-high of Dionysus, the Greek god of vegetation and wine. The hair and beard of the figure seem to grow from the ground like roots. There is a mystery and majesty in his eyes as he gazes at the Catskills.

Gail Calder, a Columbia County art critic, describes Kanwit's work as "magnificent, quite magical, and transporting because of the natural setting and the scale of some of his pieces." His works, Calder sys, appeal to the child in everybody. "Some of us go there for local entertaining. When we have house guests, we take them to Roy's," she says.

And local residents don't seem to mind. Tom Reamer, proprietor of the Spencertowm Country Store, says, "People seem to like Roy; he's a little eccentric and his sculptures are a little more eccentric. We have some other fairly well-known artists here too, so he fits in just fine." Kanwit, now 50, was raised in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., where his father was an economist for the federal government. As a child, Kanwit was fascinated by ancient history. A precocious reader at the age of 8, he had a habit of going to other classes in his school and lecturing about the Egyptians and Greeks.

But he didn't realize his vocation as a sculptor until he was 19, when he spent a short time in prison in San Francisco for his opposition to the Vietnam War. Kanwit, who had been drafted, explains: "I left the Army to be a hippie without my officer's permission." When he was issued a bar of Ivory soap he was inspired to sharpen a toothbrush handle on the stone wall of his cell. He still speaks of the magic he felt when that first bar of soap sprang to life in his hands.

So began the career of the largely self-educated sculptor. From carved soap to carved stone, marble, and concrete, he has immersed himself in his work. His first sale, a wood carving, came in 1968, while he was living in Castleton, Vt. At that time he thought all his future sales would come easily. They didn't.

During those years he did everything to support his art from building a playground to selling Vermont Christmas trees in Manhattan. In 1981, he married Mary DeBey, who is now a tenured professor of child care at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, N.Y. Roy Kanwit and Mary DeBey

In 1983, the Kanwits, with their daughter Ariana, moved to New York State. Having recently read "The Earth, the Temple and the Gods," Yale architecture professor Vincent Sculley's classic book about Greek architecture and site planing, they were strongly attracted to the hillside here. To them, the view, over rolling fields to Catskill peaks framed by nearby hills, was reminiscent of the mountaintop sites of classical temples in ancient Greece.

"We're two hours from Boston and two hours from New York City; this way we have the best of both worlds," Kanwit says. The hillside is approximately 20 miles from Lenox, Mass., the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood.

Much of kanwit's work is consumed with the female form. Female figures, he says, are "easier to do than the male. They're more rounded forms and I don't have to worry about musculature quite so much," says Kanwit, a bearded, benevolent looking man who discusses his work with passion. "It just seems to go with the things that I feel about the landscape, Mother Earth, and being close to nature." One work in progress is of two larger-than-life pregnant women. "I started this when my wife was pregnant with our daughter, Ariana, 14 years ago. It began as three pregnant women as a little bit of a spoof on the Three Graces - but I decided since they are so large three would have been too much." He actually had a whole series in the works when Mary was pregnant, "but some of them never gave birth," he chuckles.

Kanwit's art ranges in price from $400 to $50,000. Once a piece is sold he will not duplicate it except for what he calls "sunheads." For these pieces which are about 2 feet high and 2 feet in diameter, he uses sprockets from old farm tractors, fills in the spaces with a face, and mainly sells them as garden pieces.

"I think of them more as a craft than art," he says.


Kanwit quotes Thomas A. Edison, who is said to have commented, "My work is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration." He adds, "I begin by sketching ideas with a pencil, make up a little wax model, play with ideas and then sometimes, when I'm satisfied, I transfer it to stone - that's when the perspiration comes in." Written on the wall of Kanwit's workshop is a passage he attributes to Mother Ann Lee, founder of the Shaker movement in America, which says, "Work as if your work will last a thousand years and as if you will die tomorrow."

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