Focus On Gravity
Photographs by Jim Needham
Iron Eagle, California
I often build sculpture to note events such as a solstice or, as in this case, my birthday. In late September 1999, I traveled to the Sierra Nevada mountain range in search of rock. With a friend I drove to a gold mining camp in California. On the way we passed the remains of an old hydraulic mine. I was struck by the beauty of the expanse of boulders stretching out before me and returned the next day to start a series of stone sculptures, the Iron Ring. I first gathered those rocks that were most red in color building a primitive circular wall about 16 feet in diameter. Over the next month I made weekly trips to the Iron Ring moving stone and making images. This was very dirty and exhausting work. On my second trip I created the stone totem, Iron Eagle. I brought the stones home with me to make a permanent sculpture.
Middle Fork of the Yuba River, California
I returned to the gold camp during each trip to the Iron Ring. There I would visit with new and old friends and wash the red dirt from my body in pools along the Middle Fork of the Yuba River. It was twenty miles, across several deep water crossings, back to the paved road. The cold river was an oasis of comfort compared to the heat and dirt of the flat above. The beauty of the water and stones inspired me to build in the water. Mid-Yuba was made early in October, 1999. To create this image I moved very large boulders one across another, often while in several feet of moving water. I had to stand on moss and slippery stones each time I lifted another rock onto a stack. The photograph was made on a tripod in nearly four feet of water. The rockstacks remained standing when I last saw them.
Lakestack, Chicago Illinois
During autumn of 1998 I traveled from California to Chicago and back along Route 66 leaving a trail of sculptures behind me. I started the long drive with the intent of Rocking Across America making photographs of rockstacks in every city mentioned in the popular song Route 66.

Arriving in Chicago I started looking for the place to create my most eastern sculpture. I felt it should be at the edge of Lake Michigan just as Route 66 starts where the water ends. I experienced difficulty finding any sort of stone but within weeks I gathered the stone and cleaned it by hand. One evening I carried them to the water's edge as a rainstorm raged in the darkness. I left for the night after creating the piece. The following day I replaced a few rocks that had fallen and made my photographs returning to California with the uppermost stones after casting the others into the lake.

© 2000 Jim Needham, All Rights Reserved