Current Exhibition

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Stephen Shaheen

Selected Works 2010-2022

October 20—December 14, 2022

Opening reception Thursday, November 3, 2022 6-7:30 pm

Stephen Shaheen’s imaginative exhibition “Let’s Eat Columns” (on view through January 30,
2022) features works that blend a material approach to stone with metaphysical ruminations.
Curator Jesse Aran Greenberg of JAG Projects has installed smaller, more experimental works
in the indoor galleries and situated larger works outdoors, where some of Shaheen’s marble
“bones” reach a length of five feet—a tour de force of carving. It is no small accomplishment
to work stone in such long and slender measures.

Shaheen consciously chooses stones with a certain “vascularity.” Hide (Bone 33), a mottled
pink and white Persian onyx bone almost five feet long, stretches into the landscape. One end
has the familiar rounded node of a bone; the other appears almost hand-like, with an open
semicircle between thumb and fingers. It is the receptor that allows a hinged joint.

Representing the building blocks of the human skeleton, Shaheen’s “bones” offer a reminder
of our fragility and resilience, our temporary residence on this earth. There is a sense of
intimacy in the installation. We are keenly aware that we are looking at facsimiles of what
makes up the core of our bodies. The multiple veins in the Turkish marble of The Place From
Which All Roads Lead (Bone 34)
 bring to mind the interconnectedness of all things.

Shaheen is a connoisseur of stone, and he chooses marbles that can withstand the stress of his
carved forms. It is interesting to see sculptures made of this prized material installed in an
approachable setting. The luminous Lands Within (Bone 32), for instance, greets visitors on the
steps of Hudson House. Bone (8), of grey and white West Rutland marble, leans against the
side of the 19th-century building, like a casual observer. Inside, smaller bones rest on pedestals
and architectural elements. 344 Norwood, one of Shaheen’s combinations of stone and
photography, refers to fading memories and the enduring quality of stone.

Some years ago, Shaheen was walking in Rome with a friend, discussing the relationship
between bone and marble, which are both composed of calcium carbonate. Stone carvers
inevitably ingest bits of marble dust, which the body is able to assimilate. Shaheen’s friend
immediately went over to the Pantheon, extricated a marble crumb from an enormous column
base, and ate it. Hence the exhibition title, “Let’s Eat Columns.” Shaheen reflects, “I’ve often
thought about not only the literal assimilation of what’s come before us, but how we consume
history and culture in general and integrate it into our own experiences and
expressions…whether we want to or not.”

An accomplished international artist, Shaheen has worked in Siena and Carrara, Italy. Bone,
nine feet long, is a stunning site-specific work at the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin,
Ireland. Memoria Project, a 100-ton community-created 9/11 memorial, is located in Veterans
Memorial Park in Highlands, New Jersey. The human body is a recurrent theme in his work,
albeit in different evocations. Shaheen is essentially an experimenter who is willing to push
marble to the limit, inventing new ways to use a familiar, classic material in a non-traditional
and unique contemporary mode.