CLEVELAND, Ohio — There are certain things you expect to see when vacationing on Kelleys Island. Among other things, you expect to see boats, birds, golf carts and people playing miniature golf. This year, I was surprised to find a 10-acre sculpture garden. It was there behind an 1850s farmhouse that faced the lake. There were statues and polished stones and red metallic geometric shapes.
We were rolling around out by the Kelleys Island airport when we discovered the Charles Herndon Galleries and Sculpture Garden.
Even though it was late on a Sunday afternoon, “Chuck” Herndon welcomed our gang of hooligans to look around, and he even opened the gallery for us. He reminded me of the late Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead. He had that twinkle in his eyes.
Herndon’s fascination with stone began when visited his grandparents’ house out on the island when he was a child. People often call the Lake Erie Islands “rocks.” As in, “I’m getting off the rock tonight.” That’s basically what the islands are: large rocks in the middle of the water. Big pieces of limestone.
Herndon began interacting with the stones the way most kids do in the summer. He started by skipping stones. When looking for good skippers, be began examining the quality of the stones. So began his education in stone. He gravitated toward limestone because of its density. In college, Herndon took a geology class to learn more.
He’s been a stoner ever since. He paints, too. Mostly pictures of stones.
Herndon has a mission statement of sorts in his gallery. In it, he writes, “As I walk the beach near my studio, I look down at the stones I’ve crossed time and time again in my life. I find in them what I’ve prepared to find. As my preparation has improved through education and experience, what the beach offers becomes richer. I see in the stones before me and under me and in those I take from the beach to carve, the manifestation of history, geology, process and time.
“At the same time, I associate with the shapes, colors, patterns and relationships. I see my own history, my involvement with art making, my experience of life and the world around me. Each walk is different. I am unprepared for the unexpected, the surprising, for the minor epiphanies that this meditative process offers. These are the rewards of the walk.”
See, he even thinks like Jerry Garcia.
Herndon grew up in Cleveland Heights and got his bachelor of fine arts degree in sculpture from the Cleveland Institute of Art and a bachelor of arts in art history from Case Western Reserve University. He has an MFA in sculpture from Syracuse University. He taught at the Columbus College of Art and Design for 34 years, retiring in 2007.
So now there’s a whole new reason to go out to Kelleys Island. The Herndon galleries are open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. unless Chuck is out fishing. Call ahead for an appointment at 419-746-2249 or 419-746-2505. If you want to preview his art, go to charlesherndon.com.