Have you heard the story about a traveler in the Middle Ages, who walked past a construction site in a foreign land? He approached 3 stonecutters, asking each one the same question: “What are you doing?” The first stonecutter replied, “This job is back-breaking. I can’t wait to go home.” A second stonecutter responded, “This is tedious work, but it allows me to support my family, so I’m grateful for it.” A third pointed to a foundation several yards away. He stood up, shouting triumphantly, “I’m building a cathedral!”
Like that third stonecutter, how many of us really see the art in our everyday lives?
I was reminded of the third stonecutter a few days ago, when I met Jonathan Morey, a 4th generation Charlestown resident, and an 18-year member of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE), at the construction site for Spaulding’s new hospital in the Navy Yard.
Trained as a heavy equipment operator, Jonathan knows how to drive cranes. All sorts of really big cranes. And as anyone can tell you, this is what he likes to do best. That said, the local recession has required everyone to think outside the box (or in some cases, invent an entirely new box). For the past two years, Jonathan has been running the elevator at Spaulding’s construction site. And during his daily 30-minute lunch break, Jonathan makes art - right there in the elevator!
Continuing in the tradition of his late grandfather, Robert F. Morey, a well-known watercolorist and aide to JFK, Jonathan is drawing with oil-based markers, colored pencils, ink and charcoal on the bare drywall that lines the elevator. His most celebrated site-specific work is “Spaulding Seascape,” which is pictured here.
“All the men on the job have taken part in this drawing,” Jonathan explains, “And they are still giving me feedback every day! An electrician from Local 103 asked me for an eel. Makes sense, right? And the laborers from 22, they like order, so they wanted sharks. Local 17’s sheet metal workers specifically asked for clown fish – they’re funny guys. As for the carpenters, well, they’re the romantics in the trades. One of them asked me for a mermaid. I’m still figuring out where to put her. Maybe over here…”
Jonathan Morey, you are that 3rd stonecutter. You elevate us all! Rock on!