Distenfeld, a lifelong New Yorker, born and raised in the Lower East Side, works in a 2,800 square foot studio in Bushwick, Brooklyn. His rock of preference, granite gneiss, is a banded metamorphic rock found beneath much of New York City. The 48-year-old has become a friend to developers and contractors around the city because he saves them a lot of money by taking massive stones off their hands. Recycling and demolition centers charge per pound.
“If I say, ‘I want that rock’ and you can kind of tell it weighs almost nine hundred pounds,” Distenfeld told the New York Times, “it’s a no brainer.”
Using industrial tools to subtract parts of the rocks, Distenfeld creates sculptures that have a natural, yet modern feel. By carving out parts of the stone, he lends a certain lightness to the heavy objects, completely transforming the original stone. Indoor sculptures can be mounted on metal, and outdoor sculptures are created with concrete bases. Given that no two rocks are the same, each piece is entirely unique.
Distenfeld’s rock fountains are perhaps our favorite pieces of his portfolio. Each fountain consists of a main larger rock, with smaller rocks surrounding it, and the gurgling water makes the sculptures look like they were just plucked from beneath a waterfall.
Recently, Distenfeld’s excellent eye for outdoor art and penchant for all-natural materials has won him several commercial commissions for larger permanent installations. American University recently tapped the artist to create a piece using rocks excavated from the foundation of a new campus building, and a co-op in Elmhurst Queens commissioned a rock garden by Distenfeld, largely in part because of his use of local, recycled materials.
When he finds a rock, Distenfeld first lightly scores the surface to see its inside and figure out “what it needs.” He’ll continue scoring and sculpting until he feels that the work his complete, which has taken him anywhere from three days to ten years. “What I really want is to get to the heart of the rock.”
All images © Brooklyn Rockwerks