“Sculpting is my passion, it is my life. Everything revolves around my art.”
Monumental granite artist, Candyce Garrett, was born Candyce Jane Jones in San Angelo, Texas in 1947. She moved to Del Río early in life but still spent every weekend as a child at her grandparent’s ranch in Sonora where as a toddler was informed that her “job” was to pick up all the rocks from the animal pens. This was quite a task when you consider that they were in the rocky “hill country” of Texas. Once all the rocks were gathered, her grandmother asked her to use them and “create something”. This is what started it all and what Garrett considers to be her first art projects and maybe where her love of working with rock began. Most older sisters know that little brothers can be quite annoying and therefore most of their disagreements were usually settled by wrestling. So, when she got a little older and was asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, her reply was “an artist or a lady wrestler!” Candyce, being older and bigger, always won but when art came into her world, she never looked back. Her mother enrolled her in painting classes at the local library when she was 8 or 9 years old and from there on she knew she would be an artist.
Candyce’s pieces are fantastically monumental, literally. The strength and imagination put into them is evidence enough of the passion and dedication she carries for her art. Her loyalty to her calling is unwavering and an extraordinary level of creativity and sentiment pours out of every one of her designs. Her sculptures are powerful and somewhat fluid, as in, they can bring something new and exciting to light with a simple change in perspective. One can feel that art runs especially deep in Garrett’s veins and more importantly in her heart.
Q. So you wanted to be an artist. Where did you go from there to make that happen?
“I went to college and studied art. To raise a little extra money when I had my children, I started designing and painting needle point patterns on canvases and sold them. I did Oriental rug patterns on canvas for 10 years.”
When Candyce, a mother of 2, divorced, she needed to make a living. She had a degree to teach art but she didn’t want to be inside a classroom day in and day out. A cousin in Pennsylvania suggested that she come out to the east coast and learn how to carve wooden signs and she went. New Hope, Pennsylvania was a true artist and tourist community, so she was exposed to a lot of people. “But the highlight of my sign career came after that business actually closed. Ralph Lauren commissioned me to carve three signs for his Australia, Barbados and Switzerland stores. This was the start of my “international” exposure.”
She credits several workshops she attended that got her to change from sculpting wood to her chosen medium today – granite. In the 1980s she studied with Lincoln Fox and from 1992-96 she attended Marble Marble workshops in Colorado. Here, one of the instructors, Jerry Rice, helped her perfect her stone figurative works.
Q. Tell us about your particular style and how you came to it.
“I don’t have a particular style. I like abstract work and I like figurative work. Although, with my abstracts, I have to do a lot of planning before I start to sculpt to make sure everything is balanced and supported, I don’t always have preconceived notions when I start working with a specific rock. I often feel like the stone tells me what it wants to be.”
As an example, Garrett was working on a 9000 pound boulder that began as an abstract piece. She just kept getting the feeling that the stone was telling her “NO – this isn’t right”. She carved wings coming out of the rock, but she still felt that it wasn’t done. Later, Garrett went back to complete the work, “the stone told me, “ make me an angel”…so I listened.”
“I work a lot in black/red or dark grey/pink granite, so I assume that’s why people say they know my style and can tell when a sculpture is mine.”
Q. Tell us about some of the highlights of your artistic career, such us memorable shows or publications?
The most memorable event in Garrett’s career might not be considered much of a “highlight”, but it certainly stands out as the beginning of the anthem she still sings today; to be true to yourself and your art.
Candyce was arrested in October 1995 while working on a commissioned piece of a nude male and female locked in an embrace. She stresses that no “private parts” were shown, but religious leaders of the small town claimed that the work was obscene and ordered her to stop and take it down. She said “no” and was taken to the judges chambers where he informed her that she could either be fined $10,000 or be sent to jail for a year. Since she was truly a starving artist at that time, she figured she knew what the outcome would be. She called a friend who was a prominent lawyer to represent her; the case was dismissed.
The highlight of the story came in the form of a phone call from Larry Flint, the editor of a then controversial men’s magazine. He praised her for standing up for her ideals and fighting for her art.
Another stand out moment in Garrett’s mind was a workshop she attended at the Anderson Ranch Art Center in Snowmass, Colorado. It was there that she met her mentor, world-renowned granite artist, Jesus Moroles. “That was my introduction into granite carving. We were each given a small boulder to carve during the 2 week course. I carved 5…and was hooked.”
At the end of the workshop Garrett expressed to the instructor Moroles that she would “love to come down and sweep your floor and watch you work”. Moroles recognized her passion and talent and told her to give him a call if she wanted to apprentice under his guidance. But Candyce had family obligations – her girls still had to finish college. It took over two years before she made that call. “ I was scared that he wouldn’t remember me or that his offer would not be open, but he DID remember me! and said, “can you be here tomorrow?” She then drove to his studio in Rock Port believing that she would be there for about a month, she left a year later.
“Because of this workshop and my introduction to Jesus, I stopped carving limestone, wood and marble in the summer of 1998. I hunted granite in the Colorado rivers around Aspen and would harvest small granite boulders to carve. I haven’t touched anything other than granite since the day I met Jesus.”
“But even though I’ve changed the medium I work with, monumental pieces have always been what I like to create. When I was working in limestone and marble, I liked the challenge of large scale sculptures.”
Garrett’s list of career accomplishments goes on and on; a four-decade career gives you plenty of chances to make memories. More recently, she was selected by world-famous artist Keizo Uschio as one of the four international artists chosen to honor the victims of a Japanese tsunami that occurred in 2011 in Tohoku. Her permanent granite installation stands as a monument to remember those people who died; a lasting memory to their families and their country.
Q. What role does the Artist/ sculptors have in society?
“Sculptors of stone art have passed on history from not only generation to generation, but from civilization to civilization. The Greeks, Romans, Egyptians – they all have stone sculptures still standing to tell us about the times in which they lived and the lives that they led. Paintings can deteriorate, but rock sculptures are forever.”
Garrett tells us that as an artist, abstract work is the type of challenge she enjoys. “Abstract stone sculpting takes engineering, mathematical calculations, precise measurements…and an open mind.”
“Everyone knows where figurative parts go…an ear goes here, a leg goes there…but an abstract piece allows each individual to interpret it how they need at that exact moment when viewed. As their needs change, so can the feel of the piece. It’s fluid. It’s timeless. The role of an artist is to allow society to be moved, healed, entertained. It’s to provoke love, anger, thought. We get people to communicate, discuss, disagree or agree. An artist’s role is to make society THINK and FEEL.”
Q. What’s your best childhood memory?
“Going to the ranch with my grandparents was my favorite thing to do as a child. We were active all day long except for taking a break from 1-3:00 pm, during the hottest part of the day. I loved the non-stop activity and constant work. I still like to go from sun up to sun down.”
Q. As a child, what did you wish to become when you grew up?
“As I said before, I ALWAYS wanted to work in art – or be a lady wrestler. My mother would take me to the beauty shop week after week, I hated it. I delighted in horrifying my mother and her friends with that answer!”
When you see Candyce at work today it appears that she got to be both an artist AND a wrestler because in creating her stone pieces she wrestles with thousands of pounds of rock each day!
Q. Do you remember the first art you made? What was it and how old were you?
“My first stone art was done as a toddler. It was probably a little rock house. My grandmother would have me pick up rocks and create things from them. It was my “job” while staying with my grandparents on the ranch and also how she kept me from being under foot. This was limestone country, so it’s probably also why I first started carving limestone.”
Q. How and when did you first become seriously interested in art?
“When I divorced, I knew I had to get serious about my art so that I could support myself and my two girls.”
Q. What does your art aim to express?
“For me my art expresses FREEDOM. Freedom to do what is needed to create each piece. My art inspires me to push the limits – to see what works and what doesn’t. “
But to the viewer, Candyce points out that she thrives on hearing what her abstract works mean to others. Each person sees and feels something different. That ability for her art to expose their emotions and feelings is what drives her.
Q. What personality trait has gotten you in the most trouble?
“Oh there are SO many! I don’t know where to begin, the trouble probably started because I was female in a man’s world. My personality has never been to go along with the crowd. I don’t push to fit in. I don’t conform. Nobody puts pressure on me but myself.”
“I just read an article about an 85 year old woman that did abstract pieces. I related to her immediately. The article says that she is finally getting a major show in New York City. The take away I got from that article is that there is always hope that one day you’ll be known for your art. That woman just kept doing what she loved and it finally paid off.”
“I feel much like she must have. As long as you love what you’re doing, you’re never wasting your time. You continue; your art evolves. I moved from figurative to stylized nudes – then to abstracts with inlays. Now I’m focusing on combining several stone pieces together in each sculpture. As long as you allow your art to take you on new adventures, your creative fire will keep burning. It’s in my nature to never give up.”
Q. What have you had to sacrifice for this career?
“NOTHING! Sacrifice would mean that I felt regret or wished something different. Sculpting is my passion. It is my life. Everything revolves around my art.”
Q. Who are your biggest influences. Are you inspired by the work of your peers or anyone else in particular?
“My “soul mate” mentor was, is and always will be Jesus Moroles. He taught me EVEYTHING I know about working granite.”
There are only a few monumental granite artists in the world, so peers for Garrett’s craft are hard to come by. She admires anyone that follows their artistic inner voice to create any form of art.
“There are a lot of challenges in being an artist. It’s frightening when you’re getting started. There’s no weekly paycheck – and there are a lot of critics. You have to have faith and just go for it! For anyone that takes that leap of faith, I feel great admiration.”
“My mother used to tell me, “just back your ears and do it”.”
For us city folk, this is in reference to mules. Known for their stubbornness, mules would “put back” their ears when determined to do whatever THEY want to do. Candyce obviously has taken that advice to heart!
Q. Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
“Lonely? NEVER! I feel closest to my art when I’m alone. I search out alone times to be most creative.”
The comment that tells the story best was when she said, “Me and my creative brain keep each other company all night long. I usually wake up in the middle of the night having solved some dilemma I’ve been thinking about while working on a piece that day.”
Q. Apart from art, what do you love doing?
When asked what she loves besides art it takes her a while to answer…in fact, she asks twice, “BESIDES ART?”
“Well, I do love being outdoors. It inspires me. She struggles to not say what she appears to be really thinking; “it gives me inspiration for my art.” I love ranch life, it’s calming, peaceful and quiet (“so that I can focus completely on my art”). I love anything physical such as walking, hiking (and of course, cutting, moving, hammering on stone).”
“And I LOVE my dogs.”
Q. What is your philosophy in matters of art?
Art is like air to Garrett, so this question seems to stall the continual stream of information that she has been providing when answering questions about herself. She simply states a quote found on her website, “Where the material ends, the art begins.”
Q. What does 'success' mean to you?
While many may equate success with recognition or money, Candyce has never followed the pack. She was quick to say, “Success is doing what you love to do…earning a living at it is just a bonus!” “For years – I was my own best collector, but it didn’t stop me!”
Q. What are the biggest things you've learned in life thus far?
Without hesitation, Garrett answers “Set a goal – then obtain it.”
Way back in the 1980s – before she even began carving granite - she promised herself that she would never give up her art and hoped that one day she would be able to have her works shown to the public. It was a hefty goal, but she continued to do what she loved and never stopped feeding her passion in creating stone art – piece after piece. Now in her 70s, she is realizing that she is an artist known for her granite sculptures.
Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given, and by who?
“My father always said, “don’t be a quitter”. He didn’t want me to be an artist. He wanted me to be a teacher, or in business…just not the art business!”
Her mother continually told her, “you can be anything you want to be.” This was not what most mothers told their daughters back in the 1950s. Back then, you were encouraged to find a husband and have a family.
Garrett’s mother was an artist. Candyce remembers going into her mother’s art studio when she was around the age of 5 and that she would be given paper to draw on while her mother painted. They would spend many afternoons working side-by-side. This fueled Candyce’s love of art and furthered her conviction to grown up and become an artist.
Being the good daughter, Candyce took bits and pieces of advice from both of her parents. She never quit loving art, and and she became successful in the career she always wanted.
“I’ve always wanted to be EXACTLY what I am today.”
Q. What advice would you give to the next generation?
If you’re talking about the next generation of young artists, I would simply say, “believe in yourself, believe in your art…and just keep working towards your goals.”
The granite artist then paused for quite awhile and continued, “It will come…What ever “it” means to you. I’ve been carving for 40 years and it was a slow process to get from the beginning to here…but my IT did come!”