French engineer Jean-Louis Astier spent 14 years at the Compagnie Générale de Géophysique in Paris before moving to Italy in 1960. During the 39 years he lived in Rome he made 148 consulting trips to 40 countries, mainly for the United Nations, and he founded the GEOSTUDI to manufacture and commercialize geophysical equipment. His book “La Géophysique Appliquée à l’Hydrogéologie” was translated into Spanish and Arabic. In 2000 Jean-Louis sold the GEOSTUDI and retired in Southern California where he lives with his wife in a 60’s style ranch house.
Their property is located on top of a hill covered with volcanic rocks of different colors and sizes. Seduced by the suggestive shapes of some of these rocks, he created his first sculpture in 2002 by inserting lapis lazuli spheres as eyes on a rock resembling a big apode batracian which he called Bablu.
Thereafter he progressed to actually sculpturing the very hard lava rocks, learning by trial and error to use drilling and cutting tools, diamond blades and bits, and metallic brushes. Gemstones spheres, painstakindly sourced world-wide, were used for the expressive eyes of many of his statues.
Jean-Louis tries to bring to life what he sees in rocks. He calls his style “geo-primitive” to remind that earth (geo) started to roughly shape the stones, primitive because he has no academic training as sculptor.
24 statues, 23 in lava rocks, now enhance the water-wise landscaping of the Astier property. There are animals, human figures, philosophical themes and even a work referring to a french poem by Arthur Rimbaud “The Drunken Boat”. The only statue which is not composed of a rock from the property is “The Renaissance Tree”, a shapely dead tree decorated with aluminium and glass panels designed by Jean-Louis.