Essay Notes/Drafts:
Shawangunk Art
Philosopher's Stone

Essay drafts/notes/images from the "Shawangunk Art: Philosopher's Stone" Set by Charles Carver.


Charles Carver

The following essays are a collection of journeys into the heart of experience— a reference to the silent sentience embodied in our perceptions, thoughts, and feelings as we range through an aesthetic environment, in this case, experiences within the northern Shawangunk Ridge system— affectionately known as The Gunks. The essays do not seek so much to describe the landscape as to describe aesthetic experiences unfurled by a fertile exchange with the environment, and to glimpse the phenomenology of perception itself. The environment is but the mute, yet powerful invocation for that rich arising.

The Gunks were chosen for this series because they solicit the right balance between unconscious comfort and conscious attention. This unique terrain prods a free measure of attentiveness over and above the functional requirements of navigation— whether hiking, biking, birding, skiing or climbing. Unless we have engaged in an adventurous trek or a highly technical climb (which, of course, is quite possible), we are not pitched radically outside the sphere of our everyday deployment of the senses and the perceptual momentum that is normally initiated. Nonetheless, despite this seeming comfort, the landscape is surprisingly and often abruptly unique. It is also deceptive in its capacity to raise physical challenges. The result is that intrigue and oddity are often suggestive to experience, but not confrontational in an overly burdensome manner.

It is precisely that mix that sometimes enables significance to quietly seep outside its ready-made embeddedness within everyday functional endeavors. In this series, our journeys remain ‘phenomenologically’ orientated because they do not seek to exclusively describe the outer environment we range through— like a guide— or the inner landscape of our personal feelings— like a journal diary. Instead, they seek to render a rich illustration of that two-sided coupling itself: consciousness-in-an-environment. This, in turn, provides for suggestive descriptions of the very same richness that is the other-side of the environment in that mutual arising of the perceptual bond, i.e., the environment of perceptual consciousness itself. We have symbolically dubbed this capacity for richness ‘The Philosopher’s Stone’— for it is the active work of the forgotten realm of perceptual processes that retain the latent power to transform ‘mere rock’ into experiences of ‘Shawangunk conglomerate’ in this region. And that type of rock, as anyone even vaguely familiar with the region can attest, is the glittering gold that has been transduced from ‘base matter’ in the Gunks. Still, the magic requires a receptive perceptual system to activate the transformation. It is the function of these essays to prime just such a receptivity. 

There are fourteen essays in this series. Some of them are accompanied by a rich set of images. Others, like THIRST, set the stage for the project's thematic emphasis without imagery.


The essay drafts and imagery will be loaded throughout the Spring of 2019. The order deviates from my "artists original" self-published book printing, which spans the region from the Northern to Southern tip of the Shawangunk Ridge system (northern region). This online series is probably better initiated with THIRST to set the theme. The main essays reflect the different styles that the region harbors, and the different responses that I had during the project itself, which is focused as much on phenomenological descriptions of perceptual processes as it is on the content of those sensations. Some essays are accompanied by a set of images. There are times when the essays delve decidedly philosophical, but even when wading into deeper waters, descriptions of the region are often presented. You choose how far you want to swim or whether an occasional and cursory glance at the imagery will suffice.

Either way, I offer a sincere THANK YOU for tagging along. I do appreciate it!

Charlie Carver

(Oh, and for all of you real writers and grammarians out there: don't get too annoyed, these are JUST DRAFTS that seek to start the never-ending descriptive process of hinting to the forgotten richness buried in the gathering sweep of everyday sense perception. They do to seek to comfortably verify what has already been taken for granted following that forgotten richness).


During visual perception, center-surround object and background relationships are actively selected and swept into stable and meaningful contexts before we are even aware. Those dynamic processes are a better model for A.I. initiatives than the old model of vision as simply passive object and feature detection. (Short animation above).