Henry “Hank” Nelson in 2018. (Andrea Brown / Herald file)

Henry “Hank” Nelson in 2018. (Andrea Brown / Herald file)

Hank Nelson, 84, leaves behind 450 sculptures at Whidbey park

The 20-acre Cloudstone Sculpture Park in Freeland will continue tours of Nelson’s art and workshops.

FREELAND — With so much to see, visitors to the 20-acre Cloudstone Sculpture Park weren’t likely to notice the tall, unassuming guy in jeans and a sock hat.

Henry “Hank” Nelson liked it that way.

He was the park’s creator, but he wanted the attention on his 450 sculptures, not on him.

Nelson died on Feb. 28 from complications of pneumonia. He was 84.

“Hank Nelson was an exceptionally talented sculptor who worked obscurely for many years on his piece of Whidbey Island paradise,” said Burt Beusch, a Cloudstone Foundation spokesperson. “He was very remarkable and very humble … and just a sweetheart of a guy.”

The foundation was established by Beusch and others in 2019 to preserve Nelson’s legacy, studio and inventory the three-dimensional sculptures. The group will continue to conduct tours of the park and host workshops in bronze, stone and wood.

A celebration of Nelson’s life is planned for July 16 at the park that is tucked away in Freeland at 5056 Cloudstone Lane.

About a dozen pieces by Nelson are on public display on Whidbey Island and Camano Island. In front of the Langley Post Office, bouquets of flowers were at the base this week of his bronze sculpture “Medjay, Egyptian Warrior.”

A woman looks at a sculpture on the Cloudstone Sculpture outdoor gallery in 2018 in Freeland. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)

A woman looks at a sculpture on the Cloudstone Sculpture outdoor gallery in 2018 in Freeland. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)

The other 450 sculptures are at the park.

“His heart and energy will be felt in his art, the land, and the stones he left behind for generations,” said visitor Kate Dussault of Langley. “Cloudstone is a perfect blend of the harmony between his life, earth and sky and Hank’s presence will always be there.”

Nelson worked in large scale stones, some weighing as much as 14 tons and larger than a truck. Others were the size of a chair. Some are detailed. Many are abstract.

His pieces reflect ancient warriors and royalty as well as the modern world. There are stones paying tribute to the Twin Towers. Some honor his wife, Deborah, who died in 2006.

The couple bought the Cloudstone property in 1993 and spent three years clearing the brush for the art park. He envisioned a small sculpture garden on the rolling grounds with trees and ponds. He got carried away.

Most pieces don’t show titles. Nelson wanted people to use their imaginations.

Nelson grew up on a ranch in Arizona.

“I acquired a solid foundation in stonework from building rock walls, shaping and lining canyons, and assembling causeways,” Nelson wrote in his artist statement. “Travels abroad influenced me greatly: temples in India, castles in Europe, and intriguing stone villages everywhere.”

Though mostly self-taught, he worked with a master stone carver in Italy and later in the University of Washington iron foundry.

People in a tour group look and listen as two sculptures are explained at the Cloudstone Sculpture outdoor gallery in Freeland on Whidbey Island in 2018. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)

People in a tour group look and listen as two sculptures are explained at the Cloudstone Sculpture outdoor gallery in Freeland on Whidbey Island in 2018. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)

“My cast iron phase was in the ’80s when I worked at a foundry learning the principles of casting,” Nelson told The Daily Herald for a 2019 story. “My granite phase started in the 1990s. Up until that time, I was strictly soft stone and then eventually knew I had to get into a different material, something I could place outside. With granite, there was not weathering like there is for marble.”

He typically didn’t sketch out a creation. He went by gut to bring out what was in the stone to begin with.

“You just go into the stone and start carving,” he said in the 2018 interview. “You either wind up with a pile of granite dust or you end up with something.”

For Nelson, it was not about knocking out the same pieces over and over.

“It’s all experimentation,” he said. “You don’t grow in this profession if you are stagnant. It is very easy to be stagnant and not grow.”

As he put it: “The real proof of advancement is whether I have made a spiritual contribution to the universe. Such is the power of stone.”

More at cloudstonefoundation.org.

Andrea Brown: abrown@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3443. Twitter @reporterbrown.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Members of South County Fire practice onboarding and offboarding a hovering Huey helicopter during an interagency disaster response training exercise at Arlington Municipal Airport on Tuesday, June 6, 2023, in Arlington, Washington. The crews learned about and practiced safe entry and exit protocols with crew from Snohomish County Volunteer Search and Rescue before begin given a chance to do a live training. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Snohomish, King counties train together for region’s next disaster

Dozens of agencies worked with aviators Tuesday to coordinate a response to a simulated earthquake or tsunami.

Police stand along Linden Street next to orange cones marking pullet casings in a crime scene of a police involved shooting on Friday, May 19, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Lake Stevens man identified in Everett manhunt, deadly police shooting

Travis Hammons, 34, was killed by officers following a search for an armed wanted man in a north Everett neighborhood.

Ciscoe Morris, a longtime horticulturist and gardening expert, will speak at Sorticulture. (Photo provided by Sorticulture)
Get your Sorticulture on: Garden festival returns to downtown Everett

It’s a chance to shop, dance, get gardening tips, throw an axe and look through a big kaleidoscope. Admission is free.

Funko mascots Freddy Funko roll past on a conveyor belt in the Pop! Factory of the company's new flagship store on Aug. 18, 2017.  (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Lawsuit: Funko misled investors about Arizona move

A shareholder claims Funko’s decision to relocate its distribution center from Everett to Arizona was “disastrous.”

1 stabbed at apartment in Lynnwood

The man, 26, was taken to an Everett hospital with “serious injuries.”

A firefighting helicopter carries a bucket of water from a nearby river to the Bolt Creek Fire on Saturday, Sep. 10, 2022, on U.S. Highway 2 near Index, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Red flag fire warning issued west of Cascades

There are “critical fire weather” conditions due to humidity and wind in the Cascades, according to the National Weather Service.

A house fire damaged two homes around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, June 6, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Photo provided by Marysville Fire District)
Fire burns 2 homes in Marysville, killing 2 dogs

Firefighters responded to a report of a fire north of Lakewood Crossing early Tuesday, finding two houses engulfed in flames.

Snohomish County vital statistics

Marriage licenses, dissolutions and deaths.

An external audit listed over 100 recommendations, such as getting body cameras, minimizing excessive traffic stops and hiring more officers, for the Edmonds Police Department. (Edmonds Police Department)
Police: Man impersonating Edmonds officer pulls over citizen

The man wore a vest that said “sheriff” and claimed to be an Edmonds police officer.

Most Read