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Meet Ed, the Man Behind the Rock Sculptures

The rock piles located in Media, Ardmore, Wynnewood, Bala Cynwyd and Radnor are constructed by Ed Basner, a lifelong Wynnewood resident.

If you drive along the Main Line with any frequency, you've likely seen the art of Ed Basner, a retired Media dentist, lifelong Wynnewood resident, and renegade rock sculptor.

Basner is the man responsible for the arranged piles of rocks across the Main Line—some of which can be found at train stations, others in front of shops, and some in vacant lots, like the one located in Ardmore at Lancaster and Ardmore avenues.

Basner has sculptures in Lower Merion, Radnor and Media, and at one point, had 24 standing simultaneously.

The sculpture in front of on Route 1 in Middletown, where he used to work, is one of Basner's favorites, he said.

For many who see Basner's sculptures, the burning question is: What do they all mean?

"They mean I have too much time on my hands," Basner joked, when he met with Patch recently.

"What's important to me is that other people enjoy them ... and for a while, I honestly didn't think anyone else noticed them," he said.

But gradually, in the past four years since Basner first began his public art installations—at his mother's home at Oak Hill Condos in Penn Valley—people have begun taking notice.

Especially at Lancaster and Ardmore avenues, where the sculpture is very visible, he gets a lot of feedback. Even during our brief interview at the lot on Wednesday, a young man walked by and took a photo of the sculpture with his laptop.

"It gives me a good feeling when people photograph it, or say they like it and enjoy seeing it," Basner said. "I'm hoping it will give them some inspiration to do something artistic—and even young kids who knock it over, when they're mature enough, I hope they'll say, 'Wow, that was art.'"

And yes, people definitely enjoy knocking the sculptures over. Basner rebuilds many of his sculptures weekly, and the one at the Ardmore Ave. lot, almost daily.

"Sometimes, it's a few birds that knock over the little rocks on top," Basner explained. "But when I find 60-pound boulders a hundred feet away in a dumpster, I have to ask if that was a bird or a squirrel."

A few days ago at Ardmore Ave., that scenario actually happened. After Basner discovered that the rocks were MIA, he embarked on a rescue mission, searching through shrubs, and finally found the two large, heavy rocks in a dumpster down the road. 

Unfazed by the frequent demolitions, Basner has some thoughts as to the likely culprits.

"I think it's kids," Basner said. "When my daughter was a baby, I'd build little piles of cardboard boxes... and she'd be delighted to knock it all down. Young kids just think it's cool to knock something down, and it's easier to destroy than it is to build."

Most of Basner's sculptures take 20 to 45 minutes to build, depending on the size and complexity, he said.

In four years worth of rock piles, Basner has only had one run-in with the police—for building on the lot at Ardmore Ave., which is private property. The police ended up, Basner said, deciding he was harmless.

"It used to be fun wondering if the police would catch me and I'd get arrested," Basner said. "But the police, I assume, have greater things to spend their time doing."

Shareable Art

Basner's wife is a mixed media artist, his son makes "amazing" pen and ink drawings, and his daughter studied art in college—but Basner never dabbled in traditional art.

"My artwork was dentistry, which is actually a creative profession," Basner explained. "When we used amalgam, we would carve the amalgam and really make it look like a tooth. … That was my artistry."

Whether it's dentistry or piles of rocks, art doesn't always have to be traditional—and that's one of several messages Basner hopes people get out of his sculptures.

"Art should be something that’s shared," Basner advised, "and if you have some artist talent, do something with it—don't hold it in."

Basner's art is viewable along the Main Line, including at:

  • Ardmore Ave. and Lancaster Ave.: In the empty lot adjacent to Lancaster Ave.
  • Wynnewood Train Station: One on the track level, opposite the station, and one on a tiered garden by steps leading up to the station from Penn Road
  • Ardmore Train Station:  Down the tracks from the station, and meant for train passengers to see—"it's difficult to find and dangerous," Basner said.
  • in Penn Valley:  One on a small island leading to the swimming pool, one on small island leading to the tennis courts
  • in Narberth: On a pedestal in front of The Hamper Shop on Montgomery Avenue
  • St. Asaph's Road and Monument Road: As you come up from the Presidential Condos, it's on the left just past Monument Road
  • Sproul Road and Lancaster Ave. in Radnor: In the little park across from the bank on Sproul Road and the stores on Lancaster Ave.
  • : On a boulder along the paved trail
  • : This one, at the dentist office where he used to work, is one of Basner's favorites, he said. 

Editor's note: Ed is also a new blogger on Ardmore Patch. Read his first post

 

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Tony Ieradi May 23, 2012 at 11:50 AM
I think they are great. I live around the corner from the office in Media and a lot of folks originally thought the sculptures were Chinese in origin. A good luck symbol for a business. Keep up the good work - they are a delight to see. Tony Ieradi
Holly May 23, 2012 at 12:26 PM
Dr. Basner please keep up the great work!! I love your sculptures...enjoy finding them and pointing them out to my husband and kids. While it is unfortunate that people feel the need to destroy them...I am glad that has not deterred you from rebuilding. Thank you for sharing your art with the world!!
Scott May 23, 2012 at 04:49 PM
Not criticizing your artistic ability, because each one is a work of art. These types of rock piles called "Inukshuk” can be found along many Canadian highways. In my many travels to Canada, its always fun to see what the next sculpture looks like. I am glad to see this down in this neck of the woods. I will be on the lookout for these as well.
Kim McCann May 23, 2012 at 09:33 PM
Thank you for clearing up the mystery, I noticed the sculpture at the dentist's office last week. It is beautiful, very serene and peaceful.

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