Bergen Rocks 2009

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Bergen Rocks 2008 was such a success, and so much fun, that I decided to host another symposium the following year. The first event went really well and I used, pretty much, the same program again. One difference was that I put out an open call for submissions in about September of 2008. I was really surprised at how many submissions I received, almost 100! Participants from 2008 forwarded the 2009 invitations to friends and colleagues and they told two friends how much fun they had and they told two friends etc. I sent out to my contact list which increased the number of artists that knew about the 2009 event. It was really difficult to eliminate 80 or 90 artists that applied as all of the submissions were for wonderful sculptures that I’d have loved to have in the park. 

The Artists

Gerard Ooro Motondi MFA


Gerard is a renowned international artist, he has realized many pieces that have been placed in public. Notably he won the gold medal in the 2008 Sculpture Olympics in Beijing. He teaches sculpture at Kenyata University where he also earned his Masters Degree specializing in sculpture. He has created sculptures in Russia, China, Dubai, Korea, Israel, USA, Kenya, Germany, England, India, Turkey and others.

Chander Parkash MFA


Chander received his Master of Fine Arts degree from M.S. University in Baroda, India in 2002. He has been very active in the international sculpture community and has works placed in India, Israel, Switzerland, Russia, Kenya, New Zealand, Argentina, Siria and others. He works in many mediums including stone, clay, paper, wood and others.

Carlos Rafael Derias Velasquez Darias BFA


Carlos is from Mantazas, Cuba, which is near Veradero. He has been a sculptor for 18 years, during which he has participated in many events throughout the world. In 2008, Carlos won a gold medal for his snow sculpture at the 2008 Fete d’hiver in Quebec. He belongs to the Association of Cuban Artists and Artisans (ACAA), which promotes many classes of art. This is a very important affiliation as exhibition of art is very important in Cuba.

Pham Minh Chien BFA


Chien is a graduate of the Ho Chi Minh City University of Fine Art. He has participated in many symposia and sculpture workshops in his home country and was thrilled to visit Canada to participate in Bergen Rocks. He works in Ho Chi Minh City at a joint studio with several other well known sculptors, his 10-year body of work is found throughout Viet Nam.

Paul Patrick Haggins


Paul began his journey in art when he responded to a job opportunity working in castle restoration. In this vocation he had ample opportunity to become skilled at stone work and also developed good understanding of form and design. Eventually he broke out into art full time and has traveled the globe creating public art.

The Event

Paul returned for a second year and, again, created a Celtic cross. This one doesn’t have lights so it can be installed in any orientation we choose. Another difference is that it’s a single piece of stone that weighed 32,000 lb before he started work on it! Paul was pleased to use sandstone for both of his crosses as the high crosses in Ireland are all made from sandstone. It was really interesting cutting the pieces from under and above the arms. Very cautious and well planned cleaving.

Chien’s sculpture “Spring” is a beautiful piece of Mable Lake marble. This stone is very hard as marble goes. A geologist explained to me one time that marble is not so much a type of stone but a process that has undergone in it’s formation, marblization. This type is, marbleized dolomite and it is nearly as hard as granite, beautiful but not the buttery stone that comes to mind when we think of marble.

Gerard also used Mable Lake marble. He made progress on the form very quickly and spent more time than the others polishing in the last week or so. His finished sculpture shines beautifully in the sunlight. 

Chander is working in sandstone and creating a community temple, a very traditional form from Indian culture. It will be in the typical form of two columns with a lintel across the top creating negative space in the center. Bells will hang in the negative space, well, not actual bells but steel representations of bells that he’ll also make on site. A pile of work for only 24 working days. Although he has an idea where he is going with this piece he is not working from a model, he will work with the stone and materials at hand and see where it goes.

The old saw is not fancy but it is invaluable for the time it saves. As it goes cuts down the pressure on the blade increases, adding stones to the bucket stop it from getting too heavy and stalling the blade.

Carlos is also working in marble, creating a sculpture that is principally cubic in form. All of the sculptures that have been done at Bergen Rocks have been in a broad style reffered to as stylized. The three big groups are; realism, where the sculpture very closely resembles a true to life object, think of a statue. Stylized, recognizable as something, with little or no imagination you will recognize it but it won’t be true to life. Abstract, a form that has no link to a real object, a piece may be interpreted many different ways and none of them would be “wrong”. Cubic sculpture has straight lines and angular edges, organic is rounded like forms common in nature. Carlos’ “Prelude” incorporates both cubic and organic


Desire to Be” started out laying down, Gerard was able to cut the base flat and do some other elements in that position and then we stood it up where he could do all of the other work. This was good planning, every time you move a large stone such as these there is a danger of damaging the the sculpture, or worse yet, catastrophic failure. Old Blue, my heritage crane does a pile of work at these events and actually makes it possible to have these events. A commercial crane bills in excess of $200/hr and would make an artist sponsored symposium cost prohibitive. Many people think the name, Old Blue refers to the color but it actually comes from another trait. More on that later.

Well, not to keep you in suspense, here’s how the crane got its’ name, it burns a little blue. It’s not so bad that the operators can’t see the swampers so we get by with it, a newer model would sure be nice or even an engine overhaul but, you know, starving artist is a literal term. We are moving Paul’s base stone onto the trailer so he can take it up to where the sculpture will be installed and dry fit it.

Paul is a born operator.

The site is noisy and exciting during the day, saws and grinders and drills make for an exciting atmosphere. In the evenings we have a good time singing songs around the campfire, a big contrast to the formality normally present at these events. 

Being a grass roots event, we all take our turn at doing what needs to be done, Chander is returning the coffee time fixins. Crackers from the box, likely some sliced garlic sausage and coffee. I doubt if there are any utensils on there, we stir our coffee with a stick or a screwdriver. I’m really glad that Bergen Rocks is so well supported by the participants. They know that they are participating in something more than the formal and fancy events that occur in other places, all of our whims catered to in order to allow the artists to focus 100% on their work. They know that Bergen Rocks is the beginning of something new in our area, they are all chipping in to help make it successful.

There were a few dreary, chilly days. We can’t let that stop us as time is finite at symposia. If we were working at our home studios it’s not unreasonable to think these pieces would take 3-6 months. It’s incredible that they are completed in only 24 working days. Each sculptor has a timeline in his head, how much he will accomplish each week. The first thing is to get his form and then start working on details. With details there is a plan too, the most important get done first and then those that are just for fancy. Nearly everyone works until the end of the last day of carving and would continue if there was more time.

After using the big saw take off big chunks (some that are big enough for other sculptures) artists will typically move to the large 7” grinder and then 5” and then smaller tools yet. Burrs as small as dental tools might be used for very fine details depending on the design. Carlos’ model on the table is made from wood, Gerard’s was carved in clay first and then, when he was happy with it he cast in in plaster. Some artists will make their model or maquette after they arrive and see their stone. The grain of the stone might lend itself to a different orientation or other change of plans. Carlos is wearing a rain suit as he is using water to keep his blade cool and wash the dust away as he is cutting.

Cleaving photos are always cool, it sure saves time as long as you control it, otherwise disaster!

There is nearly always somebody visiting and they really enjoy speaking to the artists. Gerard is demonstrating something or other and he seem to have everyone’s attention. There are a lot of people who say they aren’t interested in art but once they have a look……..

Everybody is working and all of them are doing something different; Paul is using a large power chisel to create a surface texture, Chander is using a torch to burn acid into his bells to create patina, Chien is bushing the surface of his sculpture with a power hammer, Gerard is polishing and Carlos is grinding. 

Paul said to heck with the rain gear, too hot. He’s got a nice slather going on his arm and has to stop frequently to clean his glasses. Some people think it’s all fun and games to be an artist, I always invite them out to give it a try but very few takers. Put up or shut up!!

Chander burned through a few ideas for his bells before settling on these, 5 bells, one for each artist in the event. First he made one from stone and started another, then switched to propane tanks and made three of them before finding some oilwell pipe and casing which these are made from. Chander did the cutting with a torch and Mark welded them up.

Spring” has its basic form here, still at lot of texture and polishing to do, Chien is first to make it out to work every day or close to it.

I was really happy to get a new blade on the big saw, kind of a Christmas in July sort of thing. These machines really help us to do larger pieces than would normally be created in a 4 week symposium, and they are just cool. Arghhhhhhhhhh Billy, let me at that stone.

View from the barn loft. “The Elder” is pretty much finished and ready for the big crane tomorrow that will install it. Old blue just isn’t up to the task, too high. “The Elder” was carved from the largest stone we have ever used at Bergen Rocks, starting out at 32,000lb!!

Installation day is here and it’s not nice out. We just have to put up with it and git er done. “The Elder” is being loaded on the truck. We appreciate the operator, Joe, so much, smooth as butter on the controls.







One down, four to go.

The columns are placed and now for the lintel, we got the concrete pads finished through the week for these heavier sculptures. Thanks to Vantigham’s Backhoe Service out of Olds for the digging before the concrete was poured.

Great turn out for the closing ceremony this year, it was wonderful to see that this little event is quickly growing.

The Fun

Some days the artists would cook a meal from their country, we all took at least one turn. I’ve never been to a symposium where the sculptors and volunteers do the cooking. Bergen Rocks is truly grass roots.

All the fancy stuff that is normal at other events weren’t missed much, a simple soup and sandwich was enjoyed most days for lunch.

The facilities couldn’t keep up to everyone’s needs all of the time, so we did what we had to. Not a single complaint, hopefully Bergen Rocks is building awareness and in the future we can get even fancier!!

We enjoyed “socializing” every night. Work hard, play hard.

Danny Joe Jones from Bearberry was out almost every day. He couldn’t help out due to a chronic injury but I’d name him as our most commited spectator. He showed some wood carvings in the art show and his wife Carol exhibited paintings.

I really want to build support for the arts, demonstrate that they are good for the community, not just the artists. I donated 1/2 of the donations we received to the museum, the participants got the other half to bump up their honorariums a little.

The guys were amazed that we all seem to have guns in Canada. Danny Joe and Carol had us out for supper one evening, Chander and Chien had a little fun with some pistols. They didn’t realize they were just realistic props. I don’t think you can even own a gun in Viet Nam or India.

After supper Mark found a drum set in Danny’s garage and pounded out a solo, who’d a thunk it? I should take longer videos.

The Town of Olds hosted a reception and art show this year, support from surrounding communities has been awesome. Calgary sent out a White Hat representative again and Travel Alberta also came again to recognize the participants and gift them a piece of Alberta’s provincial stone. That was special for the guys and shows we aren’t all about cowboy boots and hockey skates here in Western Alberta.

Thanks again to Olds for your support!!

The barn was turned into an art gallery again, Shirley did a great job of hanging the show as usual.

Just grab a stick or something and make some music, sculptors are a resourceful bunch!! These events are so much fun and the resulting artworks are so incredible, I hope I can keep this program going and get the sculptures out into communities to be enjoyed by more people.

The Sculptures

Installation day was dismal, it was rainy and cold all day. The next day turned nice for the closing ceremony, the sculptures all nicely exhibited. We even got the interpretative panels up and off to the side so they would not interfere with viewing the sculptures.

"The Gates of Heaven, Everyone Can Go"

Chander Parkash, India, Sandstone

There are 1000’s of these temples in India. Like our community playgrounds they are found in residential areas. The area around these temples is a sacred area and is suitable for someone to pray at when they must visit a temple. Community temples are non-denominational so regardless of your religion you can visit here to pray. That feature makes the title of this sculpture especially significant, “The Gates to Heaven, Everyone Can Go

"Desire To Be"

Gerard Oroo Motondi, Kenya, Marble, 2009

Desire to Be” represents an aspiration to change from one’s present status. All humans of whatever status have a desire to be. Thus successful people from the top look down to the common man’s life and desire the simplicity in it while the simple or common man looks up and desires a life filled with material ownership and fame. This is a driving factor in our daily lives, we are never content with what we have or what we are, hence making our daily lives a struggle to achieve our desires.


Pham Minh Chien, Viet Nam, Marble, 2009

Spring” is dual representational, one a flower in the spring ready to bloom and be beautiful. The second is of the lower torso of a young lady. So, this sculpture is saying that a young lady is like a flower in the spring, ready to bloom and be beautiful.


Carlos Rafael Velasquez Darias, Cuba, Marble, 2009

The title evokes the couple’s game in the preamble of a loving relationship, it focuses on the charm and the song that flourishes with each caress and where the seductive character of the female imposes rhythm in this erotic dance.

"The Elder"

Paul Patrick Haggins, Ireland, Sandstone, 2009

The second Celtic cross that Paul has created at Bergen Rocks. He wanted this sculpture to look like it is ancient, that it has been here for a thousand years and starting to erode from the affects of wind and rain. On one side it has an eagle feather running all the way up the shaft and on the other a Celtic tri-spiral that represents the earth, the moon and the sun.

*Thanks to MountainView County that provided a grant which helped to see this event be made accessible to the public.

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