When I was a kid, I used to love marble sculpture. We would go and look at works by Rodin down at the Detroit Institute of arts. They only had a few of them, but they were absolutely exquisite. To this day, I have never seen a marble sculptor like Rodin, but there are many good ones. The Greeks, for example, had some extremely beautiful marble sculptures. Although some of them have been damaged or destroyed by the years, the features that remain intact are still quite gorgeous.
Thinking about the beauty of stone sculpture, I wonder why it is not done more commonly nowadays. When I look in a modern art gallery, I see very few sculpture marble examples. Most modern Art is abstract forms made out of contemporary materials. Perhaps they will use wood, perhaps plastics, but never stone. It is almost as if artists don’t have the patience to make marble sculptures anymore. If you talk to the artist, they may tell you that they make forms in the media that appeal to them most, but I think this is a load of hooey. The great thing about marble sculpture is that the artist has to put so much time and so much thought into it. Anyone can cobble together an abstract form out of plastics or cloth, but making a life size sculpture of marble really require some skill and some dedication.
Of course, you can find marble sculpture online, but most of it lacks originality. Basically, most of the sculptures marble that people are selling imitates classic forms. Instead of selling a contemporary marble sculpture, they will create one that is meant to look like Greek sculpture. Don’t get me wrong – I love the Greek sculptures, but I can’t imagine that our culture can’t come up with anything original in the medium of marble!
The only place where you ever find the original stone sculpture work is among Native American and Chinese traditional artists. Although marble sculpture is rare, it is still sometimes used. More common by far, however, is soapstone sculpture or jade. Marble sculpture isn’t really done much by either of these peoples, because marble is not very common in the areas where they live. Jade, however, is ubiquitous in China, and soapstone is quite common up north where the Inuit still ply their craft. These sculptures a unique and beautiful, unlike anything still made in Europe or America.