American, b. 1941
Maquette for Stone Bow (unrealized), 1980's
Painted wood
9 x 36 x 18 in. (22.9 x 91.4 x 45.7 cm)
© Martin Puryear, courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery
Photo by Jeffrey Jenkins
Stone Bow was a public sculpture proposal solicited by Tufts University in the early 1980s. It was the second of two options that Puryear envisioned for the school; the first took the form of a large installation that would cut across a lawn, while Stone Bow was suitable for a smaller site. Puryear wanted to make an arch out of stone. The work was designed to have a stainless steel cable running through consecutive curved granite cylinders, themselves cut at a slight angle (larger on top than bottom) to form the arch. The steel cable would hold the cylinders taut in an arch, while another cable would pull the two sides of the work together underground. This would have been Puryear’s first work created in stone, and he wanted to work both within and outside of stonemasonry traditions. As he has said, “I like to get into the history of a use of a material and play with that, and also do something that is not a part of that history, so you see the material anew.” 

Neither of Puryear’s proposals for Tufts were ultimately realized, but the models serve as an archival record of the artist’s ideas about public work at that moment in time. In addition, the proposed forms and materials have appeared in some of Puryear’s subsequent works. Connecting (2018), for example, is reminiscent of Stone Bow’s arcing form and rounded granite bases.