Rockpeople: Beyond Chester Creek
by Joel Carter
Canuckshuk Artworks

"To find life's answers
you have to remember to raise your hand
to ask the questions—
and then learn to wait
for the answers."

The ancient Hebrews would often erect impromptu monuments during their travels, pillars of stacked stones set up to remind them of important treaties or miracles of God when they passed by those locations in the future. The Inuit and other peoples of the Artic have historically formed similar rock sculptures called Inuksuk to aid in navigation and to serve as places of veneration. With perhaps a nod to his Jewish heritage but mainly with an artistic respect for the Inuit stone formations of his native Canada, the author has spent the last several years piling up his own stone sculptures, works of natural beauty designed to function both as art objects and instruments of spiritual healing.

First runner-up for the prestigious Eric Hoffer Award in the art category for 2013, Rockpeople is part glossy portfolio of the artist's work, part insightful prose that borders on poetry, and 100% pure enjoyment to leaf through. Filled with beautiful photographs of his sculptures along with thought-provoking musings on life, death, and other weighty matters, Carter's second collection of his unique artwork may very well sell out like his first one. While, in the author's words, his first book "was an introspective reflection about the discovery of the healing gifts of creative and artistic processes," this latest volume is a bit less personal and more focused on the larger mysteries of life that impact all people. His use of stacked stones, for example, showcases on first glance the unvarnished simplicity of his medium and reveals his skill as an artist. However, just as a Zen garden functions both as a place of tranquil beauty and as a therapeutic playground for the person who maintains it, Carter's Inuksuk with their overpowering message of the importance of balance in one's daily life also have the capability of touching the viewer's more introspective side while at the same time catering to his or her enjoyment of visual art.

Individual pieces like "Pinnacle" highlight Carter's technique. Finding just the right balance point for the capstone of that particular sculpture obviously required a great deal of patient trial and error. Others such as "Princess Snow Water" show off primarily the artist's aesthetic sensibilities, not only in the choice of setting but also in lighting for the photograph. Some sculptures like "Invocation" might remind the reader of specific structures such as an Oriental temple, while others may bring to mind more of an idea than a physical object. All of the pieces featured in the book, though, reflect a passion for variation in what by its very nature is a highly restrictive medium.

As appealing as the rock sculptures are visually, Carter's accompanying thoughts are what truly make the book special. From the profundity of "Sacred Space" to the humorous snapshot of life entitled "Bum Bites," the author's short but poignant jottings, many chronicling final conversations with his dying patients, serve to both calm and encourage the reader. A physician who specializes in palliative medical care, Carter brings a healer's quiet compassion to his writing. His book reads like a soothing balm for the soul.

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