I created a new sculpture entitled Chop Wood, Carry Water, which was recently shown in the group exhibition Floating in the Water at ArteSpazioTempo Galeria in Venice, Italy from May 25 – June 9, which coincides with the prestigious Venice Biennale International Arts Festival. Floating in the Water was curated by Adelinda Allegretti and featured the water-themed works of 18 artists from around the world.
Chop Wood, Carry Water
Oak wood, galvanized steel bucket, water
18” H x 30” W x 18” D
Stephen Wozniak, Chop Wood, Carry Water, 2022, oak wood, galvanized steel bucket, water
Chop Wood, Carry Water derives from the Zen Kōan adage, “Before enlightenment; chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment; chop wood, carry water.”
It also alludes to the Zen story about a young boy who later became a monk. He dreamed of enlightenment and of learning great things. When he arrived at the monastery, he was told that each morning he had to chop wood for the monks’ fires and then carry water to the monastery for ablutions and the kitchen. He attended prayers and meditation, but the teaching he was given was spare.
One day, the boy was told to take some tea to the Abbot in his chambers. He did so and the Abbot saw he looked sad and asked him why.
He replied that, “Every day, all I do is chop wood and carry water. I want to learn. I want to understand things. I want to be great one day, like you.”
The Abbot gestured to the scrolls on shelves lining the walls. He said, “When I started, I was like you. Every day, I would chop wood and carry water. Like you, I understood that someone had to do these things, but like you, I wanted to move forward. Eventually, I did. I read all of the scrolls, I met with Kings and gave council. I then became the Abbot. Now, I understand that the key to everything is that everything is chopping wood and carrying water, and that if one does everything mindfully, then it is all the same.”