Stone Boats – A Very Minnesota Subject

If you sat on one of Stan Sears’s carved granite benches, you probably recognized how comfortable they are, but did you know that the forms are inspired by how fishes move?

Stone Boat #2 shortly after installation in 1992 and in 2014, near Minneapolis Central Library. (Photo on right: Jerry Mathiason.)

When Sears proposed the sculptures, he talked about the boat theme: “The first and most direct is simply the sensual beauty of the kinds of forms that have evolved to move easily through water. So while these (sculptural) forms are not literally boats, they owe much of the elegance of their form to the functional requirements of real boats. In addition, my boat-like forms tend to be distorted, a muscular asymmetry reflecting the character of a moving fish blended with a boat form… Boats are a very Minnesota subject; we have a greater amount of coastline than even California. We are in the City of Lakes on the Mississippi River in the Land of 10,000 Lakes where there is a higher per capita ownership of boats than anywhere else in the country.”

Another contrast he found interesting – and humorous – is that these boats are overturned or sunken; the detritus on the bottom of a river. Not surprising, considering that they are made of Minnesota granite!

Sears, a professor at Macalester College, is a sculptor whose work deals with people, space and time. Because he enjoys solving problems, the field of public art attracted him. Here’s what it took to design and produce Stone Boats in 1992, his first major project.

Visitors from the June 2018 Society for Experiential Design conference tour Nicollet, pausing to rest on Stone Boat #1.

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