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Playing with rocks

Special to the DailyChi Leary works with locally sourced stone to create petroglyph-inspired artworks, on display through the weekend at Art on a Whim gallery in Breck.

“I like to play with rocks,” is often how artist Chi Leary will describe the inspiration for her work. The sentiment speaks to the fun side of Leary’s stone sculptures and furniture. And fun is a fitting word for many of the pieces she creates, with designs carved into stone that range from alligators to cats to mythical creatures. There is also a timeless nature found in all of Leary’s work, with inspiration drawn from her first experience viewing Native American petroglyphs on a trip to New Mexico in the early ’90s.

Being well versed in working with stone at the time of her visit, the petroglyphs spoke to Leary on a new level. The ancient rock carvings found in cliff sides throughout the West tell the stories of hunting, war, family, spirits, travels and more. Petroglyphs are the oldest form of art known to man. This ancient form of storytelling through rock continues to drive the work of Leary today.

“Nature, relationships and ancient art forms inspire my images through light, color and texture,” she said. “I intuitively express the soul-touching effect of being in the moment with natural elements of the earth.”

Most of Leary’s work is done in slate, granite or sandstone. She strives to use stone from quarries located around Colorado. She thrives on working with pieces of stone that are slightly unusual in shape or pattern, as the oddities add a unique element to each of her one-of-a-kind carvings. The steps Leary puts each piece of stone through from conception to completion are painstaking, with each piece taking well over 100 hours to complete.

She starts each piece by covering the stone with strong glue. Once the stone dries she covers it with an adhesive rubber mat and begins cutting through the mat into the stone with a knife or chisel. Each piece is sandblasted. Leary rarely uses paint in her work, adding color by incorporating different types of stone like turquoise, rose quartz, jade or agate.

This weekend Leary will be showing a range of works in stone in the Art on a Whim gallery in Breckenridge. On display is a collection of sandstone tables and sculptures formed from granite, slate and more. Leary will also be demonstrating her techniques. For more information call (240) 215-5351 or visit