The Living Rock Studios
BROWNSVILLE-Howard Taylor’s conversation is drifting toward the Bible so he stops short.
“I don’t want to preach to you young man,” he tells a visitor. Still, it’s apparent that for 20 years Taylor has been preparing a sermon of solid rock adjacent to his home along Highway 228.
For that period of time he’s been trying to complete a stone building called his Living Rock Studios.
At 69, Taylor, a thin, but durable man, admits that other hands may finish his ambitious building project. After years of “fiddling” with the rock construction he is just over half done.
But his voice is as steady as his studio walls when he says it will be done. He has children, he says, and his children have children. His three married married daughters help with the work when they can, says Taylor.
Someday, the studio will showcase 12 of his “paintings” made of translucent stone. He claims the rock pictures, all made of natural stone, “have never been done or seen before.”
The themes of the pictures are all biblical: Moses and the burning bush, the flight of the Jews from Egypt, Jesus at Gethsemane.
Taylor believes the artworks deserve an almost heavenly setting. So he is covering the inside of his studio with all kinds of rock from the most basic basalt to sparkling crystals and exotic black obsidian.
At the center of the incomplete studio is the “Tree of Life” a reference to a tree in the Garden of Eden.
Taylor has grown the tree himself out of petrified wood and agate. Inside the trunks rocks sparkle under artificial lights.
He has faith that the studio will be a major tourist attraction someday where the curious can be struck by his stonework pictures, wood carvings and collection of pioneer memorabilia.
But before the studio can begin earning its lustrous reputation, it must be finished.
From Highway 228 it looks like a pint-sized medieval castle with a tin roof. The wind skitters across and under the tin.
Steel reinforcing rods for future walls sprout like rusted weeds.
But if Taylor ever has thoughts of giving up, it doesn’t show. He has borne up despite attacks of angina and arthritis and a stroke 10 years ago which affects his memory.
“But I’m not gonna give up and quit,” he says.
He has collected the rocks, sometimes by the dumptruck load, and a few friends help out by delivering rock and steel bars. But for the most part, Taylor says those who know of the project “think I’m crazy.”
It seems the Living Rock Studio has grown almost with a force of its own.
Taylor first built a rock shop in 1956. But that was too small so he added another rock room. He started work on his rock pictures in 1962, then started the expansive plans for the studio.
Even the 12 rock pictures are not complete. He is working on the eighth.
“It’s got to stop,”he says half in jest. “People think I’m getting started, but I’m just starting to wind it up now,” he explains. He plans to have the studio open to visitors in one to two years and completed in four.
His rock pictures and the rock studio already enjoy a measure of fame. He says he has many requests to show the pictures and does to groups by appointment.
Though he doesn’t charge admission, he says that those who tour the studio often contribute money.
To finance the work, Taylor has relied on such donations. In addition, he says, he has “put his life savings in to do it right,” for which he says he takes “a-beating financially.”
Taylor doesn’t know how much has gone into the studio in 20 years. “I don’t keep books,” he explains. “But I’ve never been very wealthy, so it couldn’t be too much.”
Article by Bruce Westfall for the Albany Democrat-Herald, published on June 30, 1981.