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Slate museum celebrates "Muse"

GRANVILLE, June 5, 2014 by Doug Gruse ( - Serena Kovalosky thinks slate is anything but dull.

As exhibitions and marketing manager at Slate Valley Museum, Kovalosky is bringing out the rock’s true colors in “Slate as Muse,” a show that celebrates the stone through art.

“Slate is viewed as mostly functional. But when it is seen as a fine art, it’s a much different perspective,” she said.

The exhibit, which opens this weekend with a Friday reception, features 19 professional artists from across the country who find inspiration in slate. The 27 pieces in the show include sculpture, paintings, photography, mosaic, encaustic and mixed media.

“When the call was put out, I didn’t know what I was going to get. I was looking for an eclectic mix. I was pleasantly surprised at the diversity. It’s a celebration of slate and a celebration of the quarries that are still in existence,” Kovalosky said.

Sarah Kijowski, interim director of the museum, has seen visitors connect with the work during the installation process.

“The accessibility of this show is very different. Everybody is relating to the work in some way,” Kijowski said. “There is already a dialog happening, and the show hasn’t even opened.”

Nicholas Benson, a third-generation stonecutter who owns the renowned John

Stevens Shop in Newport, Rhode Island, honors his roots while branching out in a new direction with a piece titled “Slate M.” The 6-foot-long tablet features a calligraphic inscription.

“There is not a single bit of computer involved. It is all done by hand,” Benson said.

The ornately cut letters flow together to form a design. Closer inspection reveals a message, which reads: “Of course no so called style can continue forever because then human consciousness would have to remain static. But on the other hand you can’t pretend that nothing ever happened.”

“There’s a really interesting juxtaposition of the precise cut and the extremely loose calligraphic form,” Benson said.

Kerry O. Furlani has been involved with the museum since she had a solo show at the venue in 2004. The Poultney, Vermont-based carver is glad to be a part of the “Muse” exhibit.

“Most artists use slate as one of many materials, but for whatever reason, I have ended up sticking with it,” Furlani said.

The artist finds inspiration in indigenous sculptures and ancient handiwork.

“There is a long history of working with slate. I grabbed a hold of that and carried it further. I took it to the next level and put it in galleries,” she said.

The diversity of coloring in slate brings dimension to the work, according to the carver.

“When I go to a quarry, my imagination starts going again. I’m looking for the most provocative piece. I’m like a kid in a candy store,” Furlani said.

While the stone is commonly perceived as cold and gray, the work in “Slate as Muse” reveals the material in a new light.

“We are the colored slate capital of the world. The fact that the art represents that is pretty cool,” Kijowski said.

If you go

An opening reception for “Slate as Muse” will be held this weekend from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday at the Slate Valley Museum in Granville. The event is free and is part of the village’s First Friday event.

The Pember Library and Museum will have an “Open House Day” featuring the eclectic work of Don Taylor for First Friday. Chris Morash will perform music, and Scarlotta’s Car Hop will set up an ice cream machine.

“Slate as Muse, Slate as Material,” a roundtable discussion, will be held at 2 p.m. June 14 at the Slate Valley Museum. Panelists include a geologist, a quarry professional, a sculptor and an abstract painter.

For more information on the exhibit, which runs through Nov. 7, go to or call 642-1417.

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Luis Galan