Harvey Fite

Harvey Fite

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Harvey Fite was a pioneering American sculptor, painter
Painting
Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface . The application of the medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush but other objects can be used. In art, the term painting describes both the act and the result of the action. However, painting is...

 and earth artist best known for his monumental land sculpture Opus 40
Opus 40
Opus 40 is a large environmental sculpture in Saugerties, New York, created by sculptor and quarryman Harvey Fite . It comprises a sprawling series of dry-stone ramps, pedestals and platforms covering of a bluestone quarry.-Overview:...

. A teacher
Teacher
A teacher or schoolteacher is a person who provides education for pupils and students . The role of teacher is often formal and ongoing, carried out at a school or other place of formal education. In many countries, a person who wishes to become a teacher must first obtain specified professional...

, innovator
Innovator
An innovator in a general sense, is a person or an organization who is one of the first to introduce into reality something better than before. That often opens up a new area for others and achieves an innovation.-History:...

 and Woodstock
Woodstock, New York
Woodstock is a town in Ulster County, New York, United States. The population was 5,884 at the 2010 census, down from 6,241 at the 2000 census.The Town of Woodstock is in the northern part of the county...

 artist of many talents, he was primarily a sculptor of wood
Wood
Wood is a hard, fibrous tissue found in many trees. It has been used for hundreds of thousands of years for both fuel and as a construction material. It is an organic material, a natural composite of cellulose fibers embedded in a matrix of lignin which resists compression...

 and stone. Fite is also known for founding
Entrepreneur
An entrepreneur is an owner or manager of a business enterprise who makes money through risk and initiative.The term was originally a loanword from French and was first defined by the Irish-French economist Richard Cantillon. Entrepreneur in English is a term applied to a person who is willing to...

 the Fine Arts Division at Bard College
Bard College
Bard College, founded in 1860 as "St. Stephen's College", is a small four-year liberal arts college located in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York.-Location:...

 in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York
Annandale-on-Hudson, New York
Annandale-on-Hudson is a hamlet in Dutchess County, New York, USA, in the Hudson Valley in the town of Red Hook, across the Hudson River from Kingston....

.

Fite was born in Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh is the second-largest city in the US Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the county seat of Allegheny County. Regionally, it anchors the largest urban area of Appalachia and the Ohio River Valley, and nationally, it is the 22nd-largest urban area in the United States...

, Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

, on Christmas
Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

 Day 1903, but his family
Family
In human context, a family is a group of people affiliated by consanguinity, affinity, or co-residence. In most societies it is the principal institution for the socialization of children...

 relocated to Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

 when he was three years old. In 1923 he entered law school
Law school
A law school is an institution specializing in legal education.- Law degrees :- Canada :...

, where he studied for three years before rejecting law
Law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

 and moving east
East
East is a noun, adjective, or adverb indicating direction or geography.East is one of the four cardinal directions or compass points. It is the opposite of west and is perpendicular to north and south.By convention, the right side of a map is east....

 to study for the ministry at St Stephen's College, a small Episcopal institution
Institution
An institution is any structure or mechanism of social order and cooperation governing the behavior of a set of individuals within a given human community...

 on New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

's Hudson River
Hudson River
The Hudson is a river that flows from north to south through eastern New York. The highest official source is at Lake Tear of the Clouds, on the slopes of Mount Marcy in the Adirondack Mountains. The river itself officially begins in Henderson Lake in Newcomb, New York...

. Once there, Fite was drawn to the stage
Stage (theatre)
In theatre or performance arts, the stage is a designated space for the performance productions. The stage serves as a space for actors or performers and a focal point for the members of the audience...

 at the campus
Campus
A campus is traditionally the land on which a college or university and related institutional buildings are situated. Usually a campus includes libraries, lecture halls, residence halls and park-like settings...

 theater, and at the end of his third year he dropped out to join a traveling troupe of actor
Actor
An actor is a person who acts in a dramatic production and who works in film, television, theatre, or radio in that capacity...

s. One day backstage, he picked up a seamstress's discarded spool
Bobbin
A bobbin is a spindle or cylinder, with or without flanges, on which wire, yarn, thread or film is wound. Bobbins are typically found in sewing machines, cameras, and within electronic equipment....

 and began to whittle
Whittling
Whittling is the art of carving shapes typically out of raw wood or bone with a knife.Whittling is typically performed with a light, small-bladed knife, usually a pocket knife. Specialised whittling knives are available as well...

. Finding his passion
Passion (emotion)
Passion is a term applied to a very strong feeling about a person or thing. Passion is an intense emotion compelling feeling, enthusiasm, or desire for something....

 at last, he left the theater and set to sculpting.

A recognized sculptor, Fite was invited by his alma mater
Alma mater
Alma mater , pronounced ), was used in ancient Rome as a title for various mother goddesses, especially Ceres or Cybele, and in Christianity for the Virgin Mary.-General term:...

 to organize its Fine Arts program in 1933. In the three years since his departure, St Stephen's had affiliated with Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

 and been renamed Bard College. Fite developed the curriculum
Curriculum
See also Syllabus.In formal education, a curriculum is the set of courses, and their content, offered at a school or university. As an idea, curriculum stems from the Latin word for race course, referring to the course of deeds and experiences through which children grow to become mature adults...

 for the Fine Arts Division at Bard, which he headed until his retirement
Retirement
Retirement is the point where a person stops employment completely. A person may also semi-retire by reducing work hours.Many people choose to retire when they are eligible for private or public pension benefits, although some are forced to retire when physical conditions don't allow the person to...

 in 1969. He settled across the river at the Maverick art colony
Art colony
right|300px|thumb|Artist houses in [[Montsalvat]] near [[Melbourne, Australia]].An art colony or artists' colony is a place where creative practitioners live and interact with one another. Artists are often invited or selected through a formal process, for a residency from a few weeks to over a year...

 outside Woodstock, New York.

Opus 40


In May 1938, Fite purchased an idle twelve-acre
Acre
The acre is a unit of area in a number of different systems, including the imperial and U.S. customary systems. The most commonly used acres today are the international acre and, in the United States, the survey acre. The most common use of the acre is to measure tracts of land.The acre is related...

 local bluestone
Bluestone
Bluestone is a cultural or commercial name for a number of dimension or building stone varieties, including:*a feldspathic sandstone in the U.S. and Canada;*limestone in the Shenandoah Valley in the U.S...

 quarry
Quarry
A quarry is a type of open-pit mine from which rock or minerals are extracted. Quarries are generally used for extracting building materials, such as dimension stone, construction aggregate, riprap, sand, and gravel. They are often collocated with concrete and asphalt plants due to the requirement...

 from the widow
Widow
A widow is a woman whose spouse has died, while a widower is a man whose spouse has died. The state of having lost one's spouse to death is termed widowhood or occasionally viduity. The adjective form is widowed...

 of its former quarrymaster. He designed, engineered and hand-built a fine wooden house at the edge of the quarry grounds, facing the Catskill Mountains
Catskill Mountains
The Catskill Mountains, an area in New York State northwest of New York City and southwest of Albany, are a mature dissected plateau, an uplifted region that was subsequently eroded into sharp relief. They are an eastward continuation, and the highest representation, of the Allegheny Plateau...

, and settled there in High Woods, a rural
Rural
Rural areas or the country or countryside are areas that are not urbanized, though when large areas are described, country towns and smaller cities will be included. They have a low population density, and typically much of the land is devoted to agriculture...

 hamlet
Hamlet
The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, or more simply Hamlet, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601...

 within the township
Township
The word township is used to refer to different kinds of settlements in different countries. Township is generally associated with an urban area. However there are many exceptions to this rule. In Australia, the United States, and Canada, they may be settlements too small to be considered urban...

 of Saugerties
Saugerties (town), New York
Saugerties is a town in Ulster County, New York, USA. The population was 19,482 at the 2000 census. The Town of Saugerties contains the Village of Saugerties. The town is in the northeast corner of Ulster County....

, New York, neighboring Woodstock. He embellished his home
Home
A home is a place of residence or refuge. When it refers to a building, it is usually a place in which an individual or a family can rest and store personal property. Most modern-day households contain sanitary facilities and a means of preparing food. Animals have their own homes as well, either...

's exterior with grand necklaces of quarryman's chain
Chain
A chain is a sequence of connected links.Chain may also refer to:Chain may refer to:* Necklace - a jewelry which is worn around the neck* Mail , a type of armor made of interlocking chain links...

s, and filled the interior and attached studio
Studio
A studio is an artist's or worker's workroom, or the catchall term for an artist and his or her employees who work within that studio. This can be for the purpose of architecture, painting, pottery , sculpture, scrapbooking, photography, graphic design, filmmaking, animation, radio or television...

 with murals, paintings and sculpture, going as far as whittling door handle
Door handle
A door handle is an attached mechanism used to open or close a door. In the United States, door handle can refer to any fixed or lever-operated door latch device, including on car doors. The term door knob tends to refer to round operating mechanisms.-History:The first documented invention of the...

s of arched nudes, so that the building itself is now a museum
Museum
A museum is an institution that cares for a collection of artifacts and other objects of scientific, artistic, cultural, or historical importance and makes them available for public viewing through exhibits that may be permanent or temporary. Most large museums are located in major cities...

 of Fite's artwork
Work of art
A work of art, artwork, art piece, or art object is an aesthetic item or artistic creation.The term "a work of art" can apply to:*an example of fine art, such as a painting or sculpture*a fine work of architecture or landscape design...

.

That summer he was invited by the to do restoration
Art conservation and restoration
Conservation-restoration, also referred to as conservation, is a profession devoted to the preservation of cultural heritage for the future. Conservation activities include examination, documentation, treatment, and preventive care...

 work on ancient Mayan sculpture
Maya art
Maya art, here taken to mean the visual arts, is the artistic style typical of the Maya civilization, that took shape in the course the Preclassic period , and grew greater during the Classic period Maya art, here taken to mean the visual arts, is the artistic style typical of the Maya...

 in Copan, Honduras
Honduras
Honduras is a republic in Central America. It was previously known as Spanish Honduras to differentiate it from British Honduras, which became the modern-day state of Belize...

. Fite would be profoundly influenced by the art
Art
Art is the product or process of deliberately arranging items in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect....

 and architecture
Architecture
Architecture is both the process and product of planning, designing and construction. Architectural works, in the material form of buildings, are often perceived as cultural and political symbols and as works of art...

 of the Maya
Maya civilization
The Maya is a Mesoamerican civilization, noted for the only known fully developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as for its art, architecture, and mathematical and astronomical systems. Initially established during the Pre-Classic period The Maya is a Mesoamerican...

, especially by their method of dry-stone construction. That following spring he began to organize the rubble
Rubble
Rubble is broken stone, of irregular size, shape and texture. This word is closely connected in derivation with "rubbish", which was formerly also applied to what we now call "rubble". Rubble naturally found in the soil is known also as brash...

 scattered about the disused quarry, and his great life's work was begun: a stonework sculptured environment of terraces
Terrace (building)
A terrace is an outdoor, occupiable extension of a building above ground level. Although its physical characteristics may vary to a great degree, a terrace will generally be larger than a balcony and will have an "open-top" facing the sky...

, alley
Alley
An alley or alleyway is a narrow lane found in urban areas, often for pedestrians only, which usually runs between or behind buildings. In older cities and towns in Europe, alleys are often what is left of a medieval street network, or a right of way or ancient footpath in an urban setting...

s, ramps
Inclined plane
The inclined plane is one of the original six simple machines; as the name suggests, it is a flat surface whose endpoints are at different heights. By moving an object up an inclined plane rather than completely vertical, the amount of force required is reduced, at the expense of increasing the...

, steps and rain
Rain
Rain is liquid precipitation, as opposed to non-liquid kinds of precipitation such as snow, hail and sleet. Rain requires the presence of a thick layer of the atmosphere to have temperatures above the melting point of water near and above the Earth's surface...

-fed pools
Puddle
A puddle is a small accumulation of liquid, usually water, on a surface. It can form either by pooling in a depression on the surface, or by surface tension upon a flat surface...

 which he would eventually name Opus 40, as he estimated it would take him forty years to complete. Over the decades, Fite single-handedly moved stones up to nine ton
Ton
The ton is a unit of measure. It has a long history and has acquired a number of meanings and uses over the years. It is used principally as a unit of weight, and as a unit of volume. It can also be used as a measure of energy, for truck classification, or as a colloquial term.It is derived from...

s in weight using ancient Egyptian methods of lever
Lever
In physics, a lever is a rigid object that is used with an appropriate fulcrum or pivot point to either multiply the mechanical force that can be applied to another object or resistance force , or multiply the distance and speed at which the opposite end of the rigid object travels.This leverage...

age and hoisting, transforming an abandoned quarry pit into the largest coherent sculpture in the world
World
World is a common name for the whole of human civilization, specifically human experience, history, or the human condition in general, worldwide, i.e. anywhere on Earth....

 when measured by surface area
Surface area
Surface area is the measure of how much exposed area a solid object has, expressed in square units. Mathematical description of the surface area is considerably more involved than the definition of arc length of a curve. For polyhedra the surface area is the sum of the areas of its faces...

.

Tragically, Harvey Fite was killed in May 1976 in a fall onto the rocks of Opus 40 while nearing completion of an attached open-air "theater" at its northwestern extreme. He was seventy-two years old, and had worked alone on his magum opus for the last thirty-seven years of his life
Personal life
Personal life is the course of an individual's life, especially when viewed as the sum of personal choices contributing to one's personal identity. It is a common notion in modern existence—although more so in more prosperous parts of the world such as Western Europe and North America...

.