A Tribute To Hank Nelson
By the late 1970’s, Hank’s interest had shifted to metal casting. Working in a foundry in Santa Fe, Hank formed a fairly negative opinion of the “artists” whose work he was casting and finishing. Their dismissive and self-important attitudes gave him a bad impression of what ‘artists’ must be like. To this day, Hank Nelson describes himself as a sculptor and cringes when others refer to him as an artist.
Hank Nelson, the sculptor, moved to the Northwest in 1980 and began working at the University of Washington foundry. Although he worked in an academic environment, Hank never enrolled in an Art course. During this period, he met Amerigo Tot (a prominent Hungarian sculptor living in Rome), with whom he spent a year studying in Pietra Santa, a town in the Carrera Mountains of Italy. This experience was instrumental in leading Hank to refocus his energies toward stone sculpting. Upon returning to Seattle, Hank took studio space at the UW Art studios where he was encouraged by ceramics professor Robert Sperry to “follow you dreams” and pursue his obvious passion for sculpture, beyond the limiting confines of the UW studio environment.
By the early 1990’s, Hank had found property on Whidbey which would eventually become Cloudstone. After building a house and shop, Hank’s attention turned to developing a working understanding of all types of stone. Eventually, his work and growing acquaintances within the stone sculpture community, broadened his use of all types of materials. From his growing list of contacts, Hank acquired steel, concrete excavation, stone off-cuts; all becoming materials to be transformed through Hank’s unique approach.
Since 2008, Hank has devoted his creative focus on establishing Cloudstone as a premier sculpture environment. A destination for the appreciation and revelations his sculpture can evoke in the visitor. The depth and breadth of his approach to carving and construction, in the sculptural sense, is both cathartic and awe inspiring.
(Written for an award ceremony by the NWSSA to Hank Nelson, 2018)
Artist Statement by Hank Nelson, 2018
“Anguish not in deciphering my work; look for the obvious intent. Immerse yourself to the depths of the sculpture, explore the unknown, and partake of the spiritual journey therein. I recommend that you live only with sculpture that strives for a higher purpose.
While my sculpture is about human dilemmas, environmental travesties and sociological injustices, it also reveals the optimism found in human consciousness, that is, consciousness evolving to a higher level. I trust that I am on the following path:
a life of creative expression
dispelling others’ misconceptions and myths of what sculpture should be.
Through my work, I endeavor to provide opportunities for existential thought and self examination in terms of social responsibility."
"Q.E. IV Zini Face"
Henry D. (Hank) Nelson passed away February 28, 2022. He left behind a collection of unique sculptures in stone, metal and environmental installations on his 30-acre Cloudstone Sculpture Park on South Whidbey Island. Hanks’s dedication to stone carving and the advancement of educational opportunities in the 3-D Arts is his legacy.
A little background-
Upon finishing an adobe and stone hand-built house in Santa Fe in the 1970’s, Hank’s work was praised as expertly crafted and “sculptural”. The idea of sculpture had not occurred to him, but he was taken by the concept. Before long, he was carving wood and soft stone pieces and enjoying the positive feedback from the practice.