The Gemstone Art of
Biography of Gary Nickel
In addition to sculpting crystals and gemstones into his novel art-form, Gary is a Minneapolis area inventor who has also been involved in the development of new food and industrial technologies for more than 30 years. He has patented numerous inventions in various fields of science and manufacturing.
Gary has long experimented with new methods of artistic expression, from new ways of encapsulating oils and pigments to translating digital satellite imagery onto large format lithographs using five-color presses.
And, over time, Gary has developed his technique of melding sculptures of rocks, crystals and minerals with gemstones, shadows and reflected and refracted light.
Petrified and opalized wood, rock crystals, calcites, fossils and quartz are the canvas for Gary's work; opals and faceted gemstones are the pigments that Gary uses to depict some irony, contradiction or harmony of life.
"It's hard to comprehend the incredible variety, the complexity and the beauty of the stones of nature. What I find particularly fascinating is how the gemstones take over as the sun goes down. As twilight falls our eyes adjust to gather more light and then the gemstones twinkle. Off in a dim corner of the room, you'll catch the flash of one of the stones reflecting a surprise and remote source of light. The pieces change constantly as the lighting and your perspective change."
"One of the most fascinating aspects of working with these natural materials is the constant surprise and change. You may have an idea of the design you're looking for when you approach the rock, say, a large chunk of opal; but in fact the stone itself will determine its final state. As you're grinding the opal away you chase the seams of opalescence; will this one be good enough or is there a better seam farther down? And having hitched up your socks you dig deeper, destroying the earlier layer, hopefully to find something better farther down and closer to your original design idea. That eureka moment when, just as you're about to run out of 'wing', for example, you find a brilliant flash of red -- that's fun."
"When I was carving the Pharaoh's Daughter I was confronted with the layers of the petrified wood. The layers kept peeling and flaking off; this marvelous, wonderful, miraculous example of prehistory was preventing me from accomplishing a portrayal of my original model: Lauren Bacall. I listened to the stone and followed its natural flow. I spent a week, agonizing over the depth of the eyes and I made up a story, as I have since learned to do with all my pieces, and set the eyes deep to give the Pharaoh's Daughter the look of a 3,000 year old Egyptian debutant still bejeweled from the ball. One of the many technical details had to do with exactly that: the depth of the eyes. There was no way of knowing how deep I could go. Would a rotten core destroy the whole thing? It has happened when a hidden layer of petrified moss, for example, caused the piece to disintegrate into small pieces of rubble.
And that is the gratification; when a form emerges from a solid piece of stone; like the half-born Grecian urn in The Birth of the Blues. This was a brownish, oval-shaped rock with an interior of the most beautiful periwinkle blue mineral, Angelite. I carved the urn and polished it to a glass-like finish and hollowed out the urn to hold a beautiful Citrine gemstone on an Angelite setting. When the light falls from above it illuminates the Citrine 'fire in its belly' and punctuates the implied emotion of the birth of a new music and contrasts with the score of Blue Topaz which flow from it's womb.
Jazz, hot and cool.
Gary Nickel 2006