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A gas mask-wearing grotesque on the Washington National Cathedral, by Walter S. Arnold. Photo by Tim Evanson via Flickr [Creative Commons].
Not much is known about the medieval stone carvers responsible for the gargoyles and grotesques on Gothic edifices, but there are many equally-skilled and talented artists making gargoyles today. Walter S. Arnold is one such carver, and he has been making gargoyles, grotesques, and other stone statuary for a several decades. He created over ninety of the popular and quirky figures on the National Cathedral in Washington D.C., including a polar bear, a fly holding a can of Raid, a “crooked politician”, a cinematic rooster, a gas mask-wearing pacifist (pictured above) and several robots. He has also completed many other commissions for government buildings, churches, universities, commercial structures, private homes, and more throughout North America. Arnold makes all kinds of stone statuary but says that “gargoyles have always held a special place in my heart”.

I love the visual humor and range of styles shown in the examples of Arnold’s website. He seems to have a knack for coming up with clever ways to incorporate little references to his clients in his work, as he did in a grotesque eating a slice of pizza for Medici’s Restaurant in Chicago (on the left side of this image). Arnold’s website is full of great information, including walkthroughs of the carving process, which probably hasn’t changed all that much since the middle ages. If you’re interested in a gargoyle of your very own, Arnold sells both originals and reproductions in his online gargoyle store.

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