Harvey Fite was a sculptor in wood and stone. His work was acclaimed internationally, with one-man shows in New York, Paris, and Rome. He taught generations of sculptors at Bard College, where he helped establish the Fine Arts Department.
In the late Thirties, Fite bought an abandoned bluestone quarry in Saugerties, NY, and began clearing and shaping it. Before there was a name for it, he had begun to develop what we now call Earthworks, Earth Art, or Environmental Sculpture. In 1977, when the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum mounted an exhibit of great contemporary earthworks, Fite was included and lauded as a pioneer of the movement.
His initial intention was to create an outdoor setting for large carved stone sculpture against the majestic backdrop of Overlook Mountain, and for many years his massive bluestone carvings stood on pedestals on his sprawling quarry environment. But when he replaced the central figure, Flame, with a nine-ton monolith that he planned to carve, he saw what he was creating in a new light. He removed Flame, Tomorrow, The Quarry Family and others to the grounds of the earthwork sculpture he now called Opus 40, named for the years he expected the project to take.
Fite’s work is found in private collections around the country, and some of his breathtaking large wood sculptures, such as Modern Dance #1 and Modern Dance #2, and other carvings can be seen in Opus 40’s Art Gallery and the Quarryman’s Museum.
As Opus 40 increasingly consumed his energy and vision, Fite focused less on carving and exhibitions, and avoided publicity in order to escape the distractions of visitors. His work, however, has been consistently recognized throughout the decades, and its reputation has grown after his death, since his masterwork has been open to the public. The significance of his signature achievement was rewarded in 2000, when the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, placed Opus 40 on the National Register of Historic Places.