This week, “Genius Grant”-winning stone carver Nicholas Benson of Newport has been busy on a new project at Farm Fresh RI’s new headquarters at 10 Sims Ave., Providence. And this Thursday to Saturday, May 20 to 22, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day, you’re invited to watch him work (if you’re masked and socially-distanced).
Using hammer and chisel, Benson is carving the words “History, Community, Sustainability”—but translated into computer Base 64 code—into marble found at the site during its development.
The artwork is intended to “symbolize what Benson views as the growing gap between the way in which humans have interacted with the physical world for the last 100,000 years and our new perspective of a world that exists entirely in the digital realm. Nick is using his time-tested and highly refined calligraphic skills and experience to carve Base 64 code—something that is here today and most likely gone in a few tomorrows—on very old marble in an installation that is designed for perpetuity,” Farm Fresh writes.
The origin of the stone Benson is carving? “Research revealed that at the turn of the century, when the RI State House was being built, the Norcross Brothers Company purchased the Sims Avenue site to receive and cut the Georgia marble for the new capital building,” Farm Fresh writes.
Benson was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship “Genius Grant” in 2010 for “preserving the legacy of a centuries-old artistic tradition and expanding the art of hand letter carving with the beauty and craftsmanship of his own designs.”
Since 1993, Benson has owned and run the John Stevens Shop in Newport, which was established in 1705 and acquired by the Benson family in the 1920s. He began working there at age 15, learning from his father, John Everett Benson.
The family business apparent if you visit national monuments in Washington, D.C. His grandfather, John Howard Benson, worked on The Iwo Jima Memorial. His father worked on the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, the John F. Kennedy Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery, and the date stones of the Vietnam Memorial. Nicholas Benson worked on the Eisenhower Memorial, the World War II Memorial, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.
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