From miniature to monolithic

From miniature to monolithic McGill University

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McGill Reporter
February 8, 2007 - Volume 39 Number 11
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Home > McGill Reporter > Volume 39: 2006-2007 > February 8, 2007 > From miniature to monolithic
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Dr. Harry Rosen is carving out a name for himself in rock sculpture.
Owen Egan

From miniature to monolithic

Dr. Harry Rosen will not go gentle into that good night. It's not that the 78-year-old Professor Emeritus of dentistry is raging against the inexorable march of time. On the contrary, Dr. Rosen has embraced the concept his entire adult life, spending most of his waking moments constructing monuments, both large and small, to permanence.

A leader in the field of prosthodontics, Dr. Rosen has spent more than 50 years reconstructing mouths and putting smiles on the faces of patients who had given up hope of ever doing so again.

Prosthodontics is artistry in miniature, taking a set of damaged elements and constructing a transformative beauty that could last a lifetime. "I'm lucky," he said, relaxing on the padded patient's chair in his downtown clinic after a busy day. "My job has allowed me to help people for so long."

But Dr. Rosen, who creates such delicate masterpieces in the cramped confines of people's mouths, has an alter ego, one who revels in wielding his artistry on a much larger, rougher-hewn scale. He is an "earth artist" who creates monumental sculptures from massive rocks as heavy as five tons using nothing more than winches, pulleys, levers and his muscles.

What began 40 years ago as an attempt to clear the rocks from the beachfront of the family cottage turned into a creative pursuit that married Dr. Rosen's love of engineering, problem solving and an old-fashioned test of strength and will power.

Once finished transforming the wild property into a series of stone terraces that would have made Frederick Law Olmstead proud, Dr. Rosen began using the remaining boulders to make the gigantic sculptures that now grace the grounds.

In all, Dr. Rosen has moved some 1,000 tons of rock.

His inspirations are varied, with one stone creation modeled after the Inuksuk rock sculptures of the Inuit and another 12-foot statue based on Botticcelli's The Birth of Venus.

Dr. Rosen's legacy extends beyond mouths and monoliths. With a pair of academic scholarships in his name awarded to McGill dental students each year, the indefatigable McGill dentistry grad ('53) is hard at work creating the Dr. Harry Rosen Endowed Clinical Teaching Fund, designed to encourage young clinical teachers by purchasing equipment and supporting ongoing training. "Through the years, I've had wonderful teachers and mentors," he said. "I'm hoping to give a little back."

The documentary Dr. Harry Rosen: Renaissance Man will be rebroadcast on PBS Mountain Lake on Feb. 21 at 8:30 p.m. and on Feb. 24 at 6:30 p.m.

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