Sacred and the Stone

Michael Grab: Impermanence

"Life is nothing but a continuing dance of birth and death, a dance of change."  Sogyal Rinpoche

"Life is nothing but a continuing dance of birth and death, a dance of change."  Sogyal Rinpoche

For Michael Grab, rock balancing is both a form of creative expression and a meditative practice. The precariously stacked stones become for him a poetic dance of form and energy, birth and death, perfection and imperfection, as mysterious and fragile as life itself.

The quiet, contemplative Zen-like quality of his work is fitting. The art of balancing stones dates back thousands of years to the construction of the first stupas in Tibet, shrines containing the relics of Buddhist masters. (The word stupa means “heap.”) The simple monuments were originally stacked stones, but were thought to be able to transmit the master’s enlightened mind to anyone who saw it. The practice evolved into the iconic minimalism of Japanese stone gardens.

Grab’s mastery over the laws of gravity isn’t magic. The trick, he explains, has to do with locating “triads” small indentations on the surface of a stone that provides a resting place on which to perch the next one. “It’s a remarkably sensual experience to feel for balance points and realize them,” Grab says.

Viewers also seem to perceive the sacred quality in his uncanny compositions, Grab reflects. “For most people, seeing rocks precariously balanced is completely out of the ordinary. The eyes will often argue with the mind over how such a structure can remain in equilibrium.”

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