Do You Know Who 'The Rock Man' Is?
“The Rock Man” quit a successful career in medicine to follow a dream — and move stones for a living.
Photos by Michael Polito
Let’s start with a riddle:
An artist, a medical researcher, a stonemason, a clinical scientist, and a writer walk into a bar. They each order a beer. How many beers do they order?
If you’re Mark Pilipski, just one.
Now known as “The Rock Man,” Pilipski has traversed a broad range of careers to settle on his current endeavor, stonemasonry. His company, Barns Are Noble — named by his then-8-year-old son — offers restoration and renovation services, including artisanal stonework. Broad-shouldered and mustachioed, he might project more machismo if it weren’t for his kind eyes and disarming disposition.
Asked how he has cultivated such a diversified career, Pilipski responds, “I’ve never been afraid to try something. And I think that’s the trick. You have to be willing to accept the fact that you may fall flat on your face at any moment — and if that doesn’t bother you, you’re going to have a wonderful experience.”
Pilipski graduated from William Paterson College with a degree in chemistry and biology. Throughout his college tenure, he earned money by painting portraits (under the nom de plume “Mark Philip Stone”) and working in hospitals.
Starting as an orderly who transported oxygen tanks throughout the hospital, Pilipski slowly advanced to the role of respiratory therapist, then pulmonary physiologist, until finally came the big job: managing the clinical and research pulmonary labs at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, which he did for nearly a decade.
But 25 years into a successful career in research, Pilipski decided it was time for a change. He purchased the Orange County property his parents used to own in Westbrookville and set about cleaning up the barn. “I was filthy from head to toe, covered with bat shit and cow manure and stuff like that, and a friend of mine looked at me and said, ‘Mark, I’ve never seen you happier.’ And I said, ‘You know something? I’ve never been happier.’”
From that moment on, Pilipski began transitioning careers. In order to supplement his income during the embryonic years of Barns Are Noble, he worked night shifts at a sleep clinic. He shrugs off the amount of financial risk and uncertainty involved in such a massive career change; if the choice is between happiness and practicality, it’s really not a choice at all.
While The Rock Man built Barns Are Noble into a successful business, Mark Philip Stone never ceased to produce art. He calls his favorite pieces “visual puns.” One such composition is Penny Pie, a clay piecrust filled with real pennies. He produced a sister sculpture called the 10,000 Dollar Pie — but there’s a piece missing from that one.
As he’s aged, Pilipski admits the physical labor required by masonry has grown more difficult. However, his sails are already set for a new course. He has multiple manuscripts ready for publication, among them a manual for rock wall construction and design. For the past 18 summers Pilipski has also opened his estate in Westbrookville for the Blackfeather Artists and Writers Colony, where artists can admire gallery exhibits and participate in weekly events, such as figure drawing. His clientele has steadily increased over the years.
From Pulmonary Lab to Paintbrush
Pilipski in front of the wall foundation of his barn, which he rebuilt in 1996 and in his gallery.
In addition to his writing and the Blackfeather Colony, Pilipski owns a slew of patents for inventions ranging from the complex — a technique for processing poison gases and a biodegradable plastic that withstands boiling water — to the entertaining — a 3D game board. He explains his self-reliance with an apt metaphor: “If you lay a good foundation, you get to build whatever you want on top of it.”
To contact Barns Are Noble, see Mark Philip Stone’s artwork, or learn more about Mark Pilipski, visit www.spiritcrow.com.