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'I've always been thinking big, but getting to work this big is something that happens gradually.' --Norman Hines : Artwork the Size of Texas

October 16, 1986|MARY BARBER | Times Staff Writer

Out in the wide open spaces of Arlington, Tex., where giant works of art are as scarce as Pomona College professors, a new Texas-scaled monument is being called one of the largest environmental sculptures in the Western Hemisphere.

The chairman of the company that commissioned the sculpture had never heard of Norman Hines, but spent more than $3 million on Hines' vision in the hope that his work would put Arlington--and a new commercial center--on the map.

Hines is back teaching at Pomona College after surpassing the developer's hopes and budget and his own expectations.

It took the Claremont sculptor almost two years to complete Caelum Moor, an environmental sculpture composed of five massive stone arrangements, a five-acre park, a lake, a waterfall, trees and an amphitheater.

'A Passion'

"It was a passion for me," said Hines as he tried to explain the pleasures of spending months in a quarry where he personally cut, carved, polished and flame-cut 550 tons of Texas pink granite.

"It's a miracle," said Jane Mathes Kelton, chairman of Kelton Mathes Development Corp. of Arlington, who commissioned Hines' work as part of the company's 340-acre commercial center.

"If it had cost $5 million, we would have found the money somehow, and it would have been worth it."

Hines, 47, took a 1 1/2-year leave from Pomona College in 1984 to work on the sculpture. He spent most of that time working from dawn to dark carving stone in the quarry in Marble Falls, a small town 200 miles from Arlington. It was a radical departure from teaching sculpture and ceramics and beyond the scope of anything he had ever done.

Thinking Big

"I've always been thinking big, but getting to work this big is something that happens gradually," Hines said. "Projects like this are incredibly rare."

Until Caelum Moor, he said, his largest work was a fountain eight feet high and 18 feet across at Chapman College in Orange.

Hines said he came upon the Texas project by accident more

than two years ago. While en route to England to see Stonehenge and other ancient megaliths, he stopped in Dallas for a few days to propose a sculpture for a Dallas building.

He did not get the commission, but he learned through the building's developer that Kelton Mathes in nearby Arlington wanted a major sculpture as a focal point for the Highlands, a commercial center with office buildings, retail space, restaurants and theaters that will take an estimated 15 years to complete.

'God Sends Me People'

Kelton told Hines she wanted standing stones reminiscent of Stonehenge. Hines told Kelton he just happened to be on his way to England to study them.

"God sends me people," Kelton said. "Norm walked in the door that day, and we never talked to another sculptor. I just feel enormously privileged that this magic happened, and his name is Norman Hines."

The artist and patron were in complete artistic accord, both said. They agreed that the megaliths would tie nature and an ancient heritage to the high-tech community that will build up around them.

Hines found a quarry with the granite he wanted, chose the solid block from which all the stones were cut, carved their designs and flame-cut every surface himself.

Acting as Supervisor

He supervised the drilling and placing of 53-foot-deep concrete footings that had to be sunk into bedrock in the Arlington park to support the stones' massive weight.

He arranged for the transportation of the stones from the quarry to Arlington on 16 huge trucks and their placement on the footings by cranes. One of the stone groupings is 34 feet tall, the height of a three-story building.

Caelum is a reference to a remote constellation known as the "sculptor's tool," and moor refers to the windswept plains of Scotland. He gave each grouping a Celtic name as a tribute to the standing stones of the British Isles and to the Mathes Kelton family heritage. The groupings of stone sculpture are called Morna Linn, Sarsen Caer, De'Danann, Tolmen Barrow and Tan Tara.

They are placed so that not all can be seen from any single position, requiring the viewer to walk through the park.

Echo Chamber

Tan Tara, the tallest, serves as a natural echo chamber. Only a person standing between its two pillars, connected by a crossbar on top, can hear the echo. Morna Linn stands in the lake with a fountain between its two pillars and the three stones of Sarsen Caer form a semi-circle that is a backdrop for the amphitheater. Tolmen Barrow is three low stones in straight line and De'Danann is three tall stones in a triangle.

The sculptor supervised the movement of 37,000 cubic yards of earth to make gentle slopes and an amphitheater in the park and the drilling of two wells to form the lake.

He had water pumped to the top of one megalith where it becomes a waterfall, and ordered a computerized lighting system. Then he went into horticulture, choosing deciduous trees that would constantly change color and form, native wildflowers and Bermuda grass.

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