Guide climbs to new heights as a sculptor
KEENE – Keene resident Matt Horner has a deep passion for the natural world.
That passion has shaped his lifestyle and led him to become a rock and ice climbing guide, which he’s done full time for Adirondack Rock and River Guide Service in Keene for more than a decade, and a fly fishing guide, which he’s done at places such as the AuSable Club in St. Huberts.
Not only has Horner made ascents of many of the hardest routes in the Adirondacks, but he has climbed mountains in Alaska, Mongolia and Peru. He is respected as one of the best ice climbers in the Adirondacks.
In recent years, his love of the nature world has led him down a different path, an artistic one.
Roughly seven or eight years ago, Horner discovered that he had a talent for sculpting stone. Horner said he was building stone walls for Burns Weston in Keene when Weston asked him if he could make a stone birdbath.
Horner said he created one that Weston loved. From that point on, Horner realized he had a talent he’d never considered.
“I could transfer the image in my mind into stone,” Horner said.
Horner continues to sculpt stone and makes items such as ornamental bowls selling from between $100 and $3,000, and more abstract pieces costing buyers thousands of dollars.
His work is currently being displayed at the Tappan Z Gallery in Tarrytown and L’Attitude Gallery in Boston. He also travels to art fairs throughout the warmer months to sell his pieces. This coming summer, he plans to travel to South Carolina, Pennsylvania and New York City for fairs.
This past summer, his sculpture business kept him so busy that he didn’t work as either a rock climbing or fly fishing guide for the first time in years.
“I never thought I would not rock climb or fish,” Horner said. “I did a handful of days on rock this year but didn’t fish. This is the first year I never fished. Not even a day, which is unbelievable.”
Unbelievable because he’s loved fishing since he was a child growing up in Westchester County.
Horner’s work has been compared to two legendary sculptors: Barbara Hepworth of England and Jean Arp of France. Both created art that was biomorphic, which means they resembled naturally occurring shapes or forms.
“It’s very reminiscent of flora and fauna, and it’s inspired by nature,” Horner said about his work. “There’s shapes and forms in nature, and I think it’s in our subconscious and everyone’s subconscious. They just spring up in my mind.”
Horner said his first sculptures were inspired by the stones he’d see in rivers where he fished: the West Branch of the AuSable, the Boquet and the Saranac.
“There’s amazing sculptures that the river has carved over time,” Horner said, “the grooves and the pockets and the holes.”
But his influences aren’t limited to rivers. Mountains and other natural forms help shape his art. In winter, he can be found climbing the ice near Chapel Pond, Avalanche Lake and Poke-O-Moonshine.
When asked about the relationship between his passion for ice climbing and sculpture, he said they are “almost two opposite things.
“Ice climbing is very ethereal: here and gone,” he said. “It’s a beautiful environment. And then sculpting a stone is so permanent. It’s almost like the opposite of what the sculpture is. Stone really intrigues me because I’ll be dead for a long time, and my sculptures will still live.”