In the beginning of 2015 I began to work on a piece that would become one of the most difficult and elaborate works I’ve ever made during my 34 years as a sculptor. A 17 foot long boat made from a single block of white marble, its walls so thin it could actually float. Its name was already chosen: “Psyche”, The Soul. Psyche, the eternal companion of Eros, the God of Love, who is simultaneously always present and always invisible. For the prior 16 years I had a large and inspiring studio in Beijing. I wanted to use that studio to carve Psyche out of marble from Szechuan, a region famous for its stone. That studio was to be demolished by the Beijing municipality in 2016, along with hundreds of other studios in a sweeps of gentrification.
Psyche was created through a long process of visiting quarries in remote mountain tops to find the right stone, finding the carvers, and conceiving and building the heavy steel cradles which were needed to turn and move the 15 ton block. With the help of three Buddhist carvers, the process took almost the whole year to be completed. Psyche was eventually finished and brought to New York. It was at Paul Kasmin Gallery from May to August 2016 in a show in which it was the single piece exhibited. The boat was installed in a special pavilion I designed for it, in a collector’s sculpture park in Cleveland.
Two years later, as my Beijing studio, as well as the entire neighborhood of HuanTie, had been turned into a forest of bamboo, I also received news that the Chinese Government had closed the Szechuan quarry from which I found the block of marble PSYCHE was carved from. Had I not started making the sculpture at the time I did, Psyche would not exist today.
However, the project Psyche extends further than the boat with that name. The soul is the chief preoccupation of my work. Right before I left to Beijing for a museum show in November of 2017, I created a human-sized doll with the face of my wife Svetlana. This particular piece reflected another reality that wasn’t mine, but I combined her dream with mine. During my visit to Beijing, I went back to the village where my studio once stood with a film crew lead by Svetlana. I paid homage to the beloved, now invisible studio by creating an invisible sculpture with the help of a new muse.