If you’ve walked through Fort Washington Park in the last year, chances are you may have come across the “Sisyphus Stones,” huge, stacked clusters of stones that seem to defy gravity and the laws of physics along the shoreline. The stones are placed deliberately, with a large, usually round base, a longer middle stone, and a round top stone. The sculptures resemble, and are the size of, standing human figures, looking out at the George Washington Bridge and the Hudson River. Now, the stones’ creator, Uliks Gryka, has decided to end the project, as reported by Public Radio International, in a piece by Rosalind Tordesillas.
For the past year, Gryka, an Albanian-born man raised in Italy and here in the United States after winning the green card lottery, has maintained the stones, stopping by every day to rebuild ones that have fallen or been knocked down, and to create new ones. They are free-standing stones, and don’t need any wiring to be held upright. The stones are named after Sisyphus, a figure in Greek mythology who was punished for his lifelong fraudulence in the Underworld to roll a heavy boulder halfway up a hill only for it to roll down again for all of eternity.
Like Sisyphus’ punishment with the boulder, the construction of the stone figures in Fort Washington Park are redone every day. Unlike Sisyphus, Gryka does not regard it as a punishment, but as a privilege. He created the figures as part of his belief in Sufism, a type of Islamic mysticism that focuses on finding the divine presence of God in everyday life. He tells PRI, “I feel that I need to spend time here,” he says. “It’s my garden. This is where I can free my imagination, I can free my spirit, I can free my breath.” The work with the rocks is connected to Gyrk’s poetry, which is also shown on the banners at the site. “My idols are primal like Primal is my idol. Their straight form is a reminder of His “Alif.” Many are they, as many are His attributes.”
On the stones’ one year anniversary–they first debuted last summer–Gryka spent his last day organizing the stones. Gryka has decided to let weather erode the stones, returning them to nature. To catch the stone figures before they fade, stop by Fort Washington Park.
Here are a few more photos of the Sisyphus Stones, as photographed this past weekend: