A Life of Spirit, Joy and Creativity

Peter J. Marcucci

Special Contributor

(Hover over photos to see captions)

Donning full wet gear, Eino wet cuts the base for “Quantum Movement” as the vertical section awaits treatment in the background. Europe, 1940: a perfect year for a Finnish couple to bring a newborn into the world.            

The vertical and main section of “Quantum Movement” sits rough-cut for a final shaping. “In 1964 I received a letter from a Los Angeles museum and they said, ‘Why do you work in stone? There is nothing more to be done in stone,’ and I answered them back by saying, ‘I’m sorry, what we have done in stone, in the modern world, is only just the beginning.’ I felt really good saying that at the time.” Nineteen-forty was also a perfect year for destruction, as Russia and Germany concentrated their efforts on checkmating country after country, and beginning WWII. The child born into this conflict was Eino Romppanen, a boy destined, at birth, to render great beauty in a tumultuous world.

“Quantum Movement” is a 121 inch high x 40 inch wide x 22 inch deep sculpture made in 2011 and, according to Eino, is made from Georgia marble. It is a continuation of Eino’s “Woven Series” and appears as continuous ribbons from top to bottom.Now known within the art community as simply “Eino,” he has  lived in the U.S. since 1962, and currently resides in southern Nevada. A self described “Rock Hound,” Eino is a master stone, bronze and paint artist who, to his credit, has created a huge body of work displayed in twenty-two countries and four World Olympics. This is his story.

“Unity,” according to Eino, is made from Georgia Eldoret marble and is one of his signature pieces. “Before I carved it I thought, what could I do to help unite the people of America? I love America and this is how I honored it.”“I was born in Finland in what was known as the ‘Winter War’. Russia and Germany had made an agreement with each other that Russia would get Finland, Lithuania, Estonia and many other Baltic countries. So, Stalin sent many tanks and troops to Finland thinking they could just go in. But before they arrived, the Finnish Corps of Engineers had dug many holes, and our troops met them, head-on, with guns and Molotov cocktails. 

Carving “Venus of Las Vegas” in 2010, Eino returns to his figurative roots with a modern twist on the female form. It stands 78 inches high x 18 inches wide x 10 inches deep and was made from Etowah marble.“During that time, thirty-five thousand children were sent from Finland to Sweden. I was one of them and stayed there for over two years. When I got there, I couldn’t speak their language, and when I returned to Finland, I could hardly speak our language. Like my family at the time, many Finnish people were still living on Russian land. We lost that land at the end of the war due to the peace agreement.” 

During your stay in Sweden were you drawing and painting?

Eino has always been an explorer within his medium and within the stone itself. Shown here is “Davida” carved from Colorado Yule marble.“I started drawing when I was five years old and back in Finland. When I was in third grade, I had a teacher named Matti Ketula Titcer. He told my parents that I was the most talented art student that he had ever had. My mom just laughed, and said that my brother was more talented than I was. So as a child and a war refuge for two years, I didn’t have the same advantages that other children had, and that changed me and shaped my talent. A few years ago I saw a drawing that I had done, and I could not believe that, me, as a five year old, could do that!”

So what brought you to the U.S.?

Carved from Carrara marble, “Suncrest” stands 7 feet tall x 11 feet wide and 24 inches deep.  Carved in 2007, it is the second piece of his “Light & Shadow” Series,  and was permanently installed at the Olympic Park in Park City, Utah immediately before the 2002 Olympic Games began.“At fifteen years old I had a snake bite me, and it sent poison to my heart, and I was supposed to die and I didn’t. At age nineteen I had a truck run over me, and I was supposed to die and I didn’t. So I left Finland to search the world to find out who I was, and by 1962, I was living in America. 

“Rapture,” a 91 inch high x 36 inch wide x 36 inch deep sculpture was carved in 2002 from Portuguese marble, and is the second piece of Eino’s “Woven Series.”“At the time, I was interested in doing research of the human brain because after World War II, lots of people in Finland had problems. So on January 1963, I enrolled at Santa Monica College in California, and that very day I had a revelation. An understanding came to me, and I knew who I was and what my purpose was. I’m probably crazy, and I’m glad I’m crazy, because I’ve lived my life full of spirit ever since.” 

So you finally knew that you were destined to create art of all types. How did that moment change your life?

“Snowflake” – 84˝ h x 84˝ w x 28˝ d – 2001 – Carrara Marble – part of the “Light & Shadow” Series in which Eino played with reflected lights (shadow)… the sculpture shifts and changes as the sun moves through the sky; the shadows are a primary part of the artist’s intent. “One of my favorites is “Venus of Las Vegas,” but my favorite sculpture is a snowflake that I made out of Bianco Extraordinary from Carrara, Italy,” says Eino.“My main goal has always been not how much money I could make, but how I can get the art of creating stone sculptures back to what they used to be. I feel I’ve done a good job at that, and that is more important to me than money. It’s kind of hard for me to explain my goals. 

“If you look to the east, and you think about it, what do you know? You think about Egypt and the sculptures, and you look at Italy and you know the sculptures there. Stone has the quality to stay, whereas, figures made out of concrete are disappearing. My favorite sculpture of all time is Venus of Willendorf. It was made sometime in the year 24,000 before Christ. For me, that’s history, and when you work in stone, you work in history. Have you been to Greece?”

No, I have not. 

“Wind Flower,” another delicate beauty carved from Brazilian Blue quartzite is 14 feet high, 30 inches wide and 30 inches deep. Using elements of Aluminum and Steel, Eino’s interest in wind-powered sculptures was renewed in 2011. A major challenge was balancing the upper portion so that a 5 mph wind will turn the sculpture. The highest speed to date is 40 revolutions per minute.“Well, if you love stone you have to go to Greece because there are images in stone everywhere you go. I love it in Greece. I feel it is my spiritual home. 

“So, my calling is very simple—making the stone into images, and I have made many of all sizes from six hundred pounds to eight thousand pounds.” 

Is it hard for you to part with your sculptures?

Shown here is “Lazuline,” a delicate 60 inch high x 60 inch wide x 60 inch deep sculpture carved in 2009 from Brazilian Blue quartzite. Eino considers this to be one of his masterpieces because of the thinness of the stone, the surface texture of each blade (on both sides), the hardness of the stone, and the engineering required not only to assemble the piece, but to make it able to be relocated without breaking.“Part of the problem today is that art that is sensational and created by great artists, is purchased and placed in private collections where it can be appreciated by only a few chosen people. When art is created and made for sale and not made from the spirit of the artist, it may not be good art. 

“Art is an international language that has no barrier of time. Art is the language of spirit, and when you understand it, you do not need to know why, you just know that you do, and if you accept that you know it, that is enough. Do you understand that?” 

Yes, a work of art is expressed by its creator but made for all to appreciate. 

“Yes, it belongs to all people. A good example for me is that when a child is still inside the mother, it is only for the mother. Then, when the child is born, it belongs to the family and then belongs to the world. Likewise, when art is still in the artist’s brain, it belongs to the artist. Then when it is made, it belongs to everyone.” 

Who inspired you over the years and how long did it take you to reach a high level of sculpting?

“If I look at bronze sculpting, it is Rodin that has inspired me. His work is very emotional. He is one of my favorites. Leonardo da Vinci is also one who inspired me.

“To answer the second part of your question—I love classical music, and if I give you a violin, that doesn’t make you a violinist. It takes thousands of hours of practice to do that, and if you have a good ear, and practice, you will become one with that violin, and you will be able to express yourself without even having to think about it. The same thing applies to stone. Stone has its own language and, using tools, I have become one with it. If you have that, then you can be one with the music that the stone has. Do you understand?”

Yes, very well. What you do in stone is a work of art, and to truly be an artist, one must eat, sleep, breath and embrace the stone. 

“We are living in a world where things and designs are made by computer driven machines. They are amazing but, for me, things of art should be made by the human hand, and that’s the way I like to do it. I’ve seen sculptures made in other countries by machines, and I cannot understand why they were not made by a person. They were either new or reproductions and they were terrible. I cannot understand this. 

“What’s happening to our society when we allow someone, from somewhere, to make a sculpture like this? The person that made this had no understanding of what he was doing. In other words, he did not speak the language of stone.”

The trickiest part of being an artist seems to be making art while making money. Has it been difficult for you to perform this balancing act?

“Economically, yes, but that is no big deal, because I have been true to myself and what I believe in. In 1963, in a gallery in Santa Monica, California, they sold my work almost immediately, and the gallery owner told me to go make five more like that. That was a moment of truth for me, and after he said that I realized that art is not and never will be a commercial venture for me, and by understanding that, I was able to be free to just create what was in my mind. 

“In many ways Michelangelo was lucky, because he had the Church to sponsor him. Like him, I also had a good sponsor, but I am absolutely a failure at being a businessman. I had a good manager that did well at selling my work in the ’60s and ’70s. His name was Chals Poleay, and I did really well because he did well for me. I’ve been looking for someone to manage or sponsor me. 

“I also had a sponsor many years ago who lived in Nashville, Tennessee, and he sponsored me for some major works. His name was Bryan Maxwell, and he came to me with some ideas, and I had some ideas. He was an architect, and he had a passion for art and understood what I was doing. I really miss him. His wife Jennifer also supported me. I think that by knowing people like this, I was able to make large sculptures that I wouldn’t have otherwise had the good fortune to create.”

If Michelangelo were still alive and a modern day art critic, what would he say about you and your art?

“Michelangelo was a great artist. He worked for the Vatican, but most of the time he did what they wanted him to do. That’s not me and that wouldn’t be true to myself. 

“For example: Bob Hope wanted to commission me in 1964 to carve a sculpture in Hope Valley for the movie stars, and I turned it down because it wasn’t what I wanted to do. 

“I do think Michelangelo would be happy to see how far I’ve pushed the stone. That is one thing that modern tools have allowed all of us to do. We have grinders and diamond blades which allow us to create open space within a sculpture. He only had hammers and chisels and he was limited in some ways.” 

You just mentioned tools. Do you make your own?

“Yes, I learned how to make chisels a long time ago, but much of the time I use electric tools with diamond wheels and blades. I used to use silicon carbide grinding wheels, but had one explode and almost took my leg off. 

“Tools are like a violin. You have to learn how to play them and they become part of you. They are part of modern society and we have tools that we should use. The ones I do use, I use with water to alleviate any dust. I’m in very good shape, and that is part of the responsibility of being an artist. You have to keep yourself in good shape.” 

Have you worked in symposiums or created public art?

“I have not ever attended a symposium, but I have done a lot of public art. Last year I attended my 50th year celebration of sculpting at the Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle, Washington, where some of my art was featured. I’ve also had a few shows in Denmark that were very satisfying to me.” 

What was your favorite sculpture to carve, and what other types of art do you love to do?

“One of my favorites is Venus of Las Vegas, but my favorite sculpture is a snowflake that I made out of Bianco Extraordinary marble from Carrara, Italy. 

“I think the most rewarding sculpture I ever made sits at the Dell Children’s Hospital in Austin, Texas. It’s called Tree of Life and it was created by collaborating with children who were on dialysis machines. For me that was the most rewarding, because those children would call to their moms and say, ‘Mom! See what I have done? Look at my work!’ 

“That sculpture had a purpose because I can imagine being 5, 6, or 7 years old and being on a dialysis machine for two or three hours, and you know that if you don’t do it, it’s goodbye. That sculpture is right next to the front door where those children walk in, and that to me is more rewarding than any economic reward could ever be. I would love to do more of those anywhere.

“Over the last three years I have also done over thirty oil paintings. I had a little stroke and I thought it good to slow down a little bit, so I went back to my roots and began painting. Most of my paintings are about nature. There are no telephone poles and no signs, just nature, because I believe that nature is incredible. I think a big problem today is that we don’t allow our children to explore nature like we did in the past. How old are you?”

I’m 62, and when I was young we’d come home from school, put on some beat-up clothing and meet up with the neighborhood kids and play baseball or play in the woods.  

“Well, when you were a child you could do whatever you wanted to and it was good for your spirit. Art comes from spirit, and I feel that TV, computers, and media diminish that spirit. Our society is very confused from being bombarded by everything we hear and see in the media. It’s their choice, but I’m afraid that very few people these days pay attention to their spirit, and that’s why we have so much violence in our culture.” 

Do you prefer working in marble or granite?

“I work with the light, the stone and the space. Over the years I’ve done most of my work in marble, but I have done some work in granite also. I was surprised how easy hard stone is to work with. 

“In the past, I saw how much potential that granite had, but avoided it because I was afraid of the silica dust. I do use water, so dust really isn’t a problem anymore and hope to do more with the harder stones. I have also worked in quartz, and to do that you must use diamond tools. I really love working with onyx too.” You’re a hard-working man and have managed to build a huge body of work.

“I love to work. It’s who I am. I had always worked hard, but I didn’t think working hard would be my occupation. I just thought it was a release of my energy. I don’t like to eat, and I don’t like to sleep—I like to carve. 

“If you look at the sculpture titled Unity, you’ll see another of my favorites. Unity, is one of my signature pieces, and I would love to see it go to the right place when it is time. Before I carved it I thought, what could I do to help unite the people of America? I love America and this is how I honored it.” 

Yes, It is magnificent. Did you glue two different colors together and then shaped it?

“No—It’s all made out of one piece. I keep it in my back yard right now. See that’s the thing right there, you have to let them go when it is their time.” 

Many of your sculptures look delicate. When you find a home for “Unity,” will it be difficult to transport?

“Moving a sculpture is also challenging. While sculpting, not only do you have to think about what you are going to create—you also have to be thinking how you are going to move it when it is done. Before you make something, make sure you can move it. I learned that very early while working in bronze.” 

So you’ve also worked in bronze?

“Years ago I lived in Venice Beach, California. It was in a garage where I lived and worked and, unfortunately, I was evicted. I again moved and I was again evicted. They said I couldn’t live and work in the same place. 

“At that time I was also working in bronze and didn’t know what I know now, such as making molds out of latex and all of that. Hal Peterson was my bronze man for thirty years, and after he retired, I began doing my own. He was brilliant, but he had a problem. I’m not going to say he was cheap, I’m going to say he was too economical in his use of materials, and he destroyed his own formula.”

So you do your own lost wax castings in bronze?

“Yes, I do my own. I like doing it because it allows me to push different boundaries and I’m a believer in doing things myself. When other people do work for you it is not as important to them as it is to you. Many times what they are doing is not their passion, it is just their job. I’m looking forward to creating a life-size woman out of bronze.” 

What else do you hope to accomplish in the future?

“I am fortunate to be seventy-three years old, and I wake up every day and want to make more sculptures. Almost every morning, I go walking in the desert, and I see stones and see my inspiration to create art. 

“Going to Greece to do work is also something I want to pursue. I would love to do that. I like to continue to push my boundaries and have been blessed with the ability to have ideas. I do my best every day, and I can wake up in the morning and be happy, because my work allows me to be content. 

“I’ve done hundreds of sculptures that sit in twenty-two countries, and even now I just counted over sixty stone sculptures still in my possession. Someday, I would love to have a large exhibition somewhere.” 

Well, you get to be content, and people like me get to appreciate the beauty that you create.

“Pete, you really understand what I do. Most people don’t have a clue.” 

Any words of wisdom for new artists who want to work in stone or bronze?

The most important thing, again, is to learn how to play that violin. Once you learn how to play it, you can express yourself. The best way to learn how to sculpt is to just make one that looks like your mother or father or a friend and express yourself through that. Once you do that, you will have a relationship between your mind and the sculpture you want to make, because it is right in front of you. That is your first step. 

“If you were a student of mine, I would have you do this by hand. This would allow you to build the technical knowledge needed to advance. 

“Pete, I think the most important thing is that once you learn the media, you prove to yourself what you want to do. There is nothing wrong with doing commercial work—it is just not who I am and what I do. If you want to be commercial, that is fine, and you will use computers and all of that. 

“Also remember that if you break something it probably means you lacked patience and took a short cut. Sometimes I get so anxious about completing what I’m working on that I have to remind myself to just walk away, because I’m losing that one-to-one with stone. I have the patience, but sometimes I lose my patience. Just remember: sometimes creating art will be a good experience, and sometimes it will be a bad experience, but you will always move forward, so don’t give up.”  

Thanks Eino— Rock On.

To learn more about Eino Romppanen and his art visit www.eino.org.

Peter J. Marcucci has over 25 years of fabrication experience in the stone industry. Send your comments to our Contacts page.