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That Rock Sculpture keeps changing in New Paltz

That Rock Sculpture as it appeared in late May, 2010.
That Rock Sculpture as it appeared in late May, 2010.
Terence P Ward

At the corner of Joalyn Road and Main Street in New Paltz is a pile of rocks that won't stay still. It's not that anybody ever seems to see it changing, but this pile of rocks is actually a dynamic sculpture that doesn't ever seem to keep the same configuration for long. It has its own Facebook fan page, and has occasionally been decorated for holidays and other special occasions.

"That Rock Sculpture in New Paltz," as it's called on Facebook, is the brainchild of Dr. Mark Jordan, upon whose land it sits. Dr. Jordan spoke to the New Paltz Examiner in the office he refers to, tongue-in-cheek, as his "laboratory." In the small room lined floor-to-ceiling with shelves of supplements and health texts he spoke about the origins and history of the sculpture. "I wanted to make a sign for the business [New Paltz Healing Arts, which occupies the building Jordan owns on that corner], and I got a couple of pallets of stone delivered," he explained, recalling the events from about five years past. "It turned out they must have been the wrong kind of stone," he continued, because he was completely unsuccessful making a stable structure to hold a sign - the pile of stones which had been dumped at the corner was completely unsuitable.

"I started piling the rocks up, and I found I just couldn't stop until every one was placed," he recalled. "I was in the zone," and intuitively knew where each stone ought to go. Jordan started getting positive feedback about the sculpture right away, the amount of which initially surprised him. Even more pleasing, however, was the fact that passersby started moving stones around on the sculpture, making it interactive. "Once early on it was just pushed over," but for the most part the changes have been intentional. People have even donated stones to it over the years.

Occasionally That Rock Sculpture has gotten spruced up for a specific holiday or event, and Jordan makes it a point to do a major overhaul every few months. He recalled being asked to participate in the Celebration of the Arts "early on" in the sculpture's life, and he responded with a theme about "sticks and stones and rubber ducks." The sculpture has also been decorated for Christmas and Halloween. When he reorganizes the structure, Jordan tries to keep to his meta-theme of "flow." He enjoys the paradox of making something changing and shifting out of rock, a decidedly unmoving medium.

Above all, he tries to "avoid making it into something . . . it's a pile of rocks!"