Reflecting on my years at The College of New Rochelle through Woodcarving

The College of New Rochelle formally closed its doors on August 10, 2019 after over 110 years of providing quality higher education for thousands of graduates. As one might imagine, my life journey took me through many different experiences and challenges during my 39 year tenure there as a professor in the graduate art therapy program. As an artist, there has been one particular experience that seems to have encompassed these experiences. In the mid 1980s I had the opportunity to acquire several pieces of poplar wood cut from a friend’s tulip tree that had been struck by lightning and required complete removal. I took these pieces and sealed the fresh cut sides with wax to allow proper drying over several years before attempting to carve.

I then brought the raw wood to the sculpting studio at CNR where I would have access to an array of sculpting tools. I began working on one piece sometime during the late 1980s and due to the wood’s density and challenging grain structure, approached and worked on the piece for only short periods of time, allowing longer intervals in between, for it to remain dormant.

This process went on for around 30 years. As I look back I can now see that each approach to this piece had been influenced by my then current life experiences during each period of work, which by the way, is often the case with the production of any artwork. The difference here, between the many other pieces of art that I had also produced during these years, is that this one contained and compressed many more of my experiences of during this extended period of time.

When the college announce that it was closing I decided to attempt to bring some closure to this piece, as I was not then aware of any future easy access to the type of tools I had available there. So for the last academic year, 2018-2019, I worked hard to complete as much as possible. In May 2019, I bought the rough cut piece upstate to my summer home where I had constructed an outdoor sculpting studio and proceeded to research new woodcarving tools and materials that would enable me to bring closure and complete this piece. Below are studio photos of the completed piece, “Timeline”, 34”H x 24”W x 19”D, mounted on a black matte micarta base with a recessed ball bearing swivel mechanism. This piece reflects both the many years of the life of the tree and the many years of my life during the creation of the work.




Fortunately, The College of Mount Saint Vincent has begun the process of reapplying to NY State Education Department,for our program to become part of their growing Graduate School. We are currently ‘teaching out’ our second year students who had begun the program at CNR, and are awaiting final approval for the entire program transition.

During my tenure at CNR I had developed a unique clinical stone carving course where I was able to offer my stone carving skills to students in a manner that enhanced their clinical skills. The “Workshop in Imagery Transformation”, where graduate art therapy students learned to apply their growing skills in stone carving as a medium to explore clinical phenomena as they work with clients in clinical settings, provided what I call a Visceral Learning* experience. By focusing on transference/countertransference issues that inevitably arise when working with resistant patients, this course had often been referred to by CNR students during their exit interviews, as “A life changing experience”. I’m so pleased to know that this opportunity may now continue to provide similar learning experiences for future graduate art therapy students.

*     "Visceral Learning: The Integration of Creative Process in Education and Psychotherapy, Art Therapy, July 1990, pp. 60-69.