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8 Carving and Quarrying

Carving and quarrying can be seen as the same process. The dream of carving the mountain was planted in Michelangelo's mind after he saw how the mountain of Carrara being carved by the quarries. The dream of carving mountains precedes Michelangelo. There are the immense devotional carvings of the Buddha. In Leshan, a two-hour bus ride from Chengdu is a carving that is supposed to be the largest Buddha in the world. Monumental carvings of the Buddha are scattered around the Buddhist world. The huge carved Buddhas destroyed by the Taliban were simply two of many.


Ministravia marble quarry in the Apennine Mountains near Carrara, ItalyQuarry workers drill a massive block of white marble in the YA AN Long Dong Da Gou Tou East White Mine, Chengdu, Sichuan, China


In the West devotion takes a different path. Dinocrates proposed to Alexander the Great that Mount Athos could be carved into his likeness. The problem is that without the means of accomplishing something, such ambitions stay as dreams. In the last 100 years that is changing and mountains are beginning to be carved. A competition of carving mountains began in the United States with Mt Rushmore, Gutzon Borglum's big dream that he realized with the help of Luigi Del Bianco. That was followed with a confederate response in Georgia by carving a mountain with legendary Confederate generals. Now underway is a Native American response in the carving of Crazy Horse on his horse. Back at the original site of Dinocrates's dream someone is finally carving the face of Alexander the Great into Mount Athos.

All these modern carved mountains have benefitted from modern techniques. A new process of using jet heat torches has been used in most modern monumental carvings. The technique is to apply a sudden high temperature so that it causes the expansion of the top surface that then breaks away.

The problem with carving mountains, in comparison to traditional quarries, is that the result distances us. We are always kept as observers, outside of the results. When the entire mountain is both quarry and sculpture it does not make space for us. Normal quarries create their generous spaces inadvertently, and as such even a truly vast quarry seems to modestly, and generously make space for us. In a quarry it can feel as if we are flying through the earth; and indeed we are flying through time.

— Joel Fisher

Newcastle/ Paris/ Vermont


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