Metropolitan Cleveland (Ohio) is surrounded by an extensive system of nature preserves (21,000 acres, give or take) that constitute a chain of ‘green space’ that is simply spectacular.
Called The Emerald Necklace (and having been raised in the area of the South Chagrin Reservation) I have a favorite spot- or two.
On a recent crisp morning I took a walk down to the river and had a talk with my favorite hometown artist- the late Henry Church, Jr. (1836-1908). Well, ‘talk’ may not be entirely accurate, but communicate we did.
Henry was a self-taught artist that, for some, still mysterious, reason, was inspired to walk through the night-time woods (in the summer of 1885) with a lantern and chisel, and carve this ‘thing’ called Squaw Rock.
It is a huge sandstone outcropping that sits on the banks of the Chagrin River. The deep images of a naked woman (maybe squaw?), a baby in a papoose, a quiver of arrows, an eagle, all four phases of the moon, a giant serpent, a dog, and a human skeleton, are all just carved there- all jumbled together- with no rhyme or reason. What was he trying to say? How are they connected? No one apparently bothered to ask.
So, here we are with this strange, yet intriguing, sculpture that people still traverse the steep banks to see, and touch, and climb on.
I placed my hand on his beautifully carved signature, and asked, ‘Why is this here, Henry?’.
|Henry Church, Jr. was a blacksmith, and artist, whose work is included in many
prestigious collections, including the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the
Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum
|The north side of the boulder|
|Looking down river
to one of several
|The river bank|