Schoodic 2014! Report #1

I was privileged to be chosen to take part in the fifth and last Schoodic International Sculpture Symposium this year, in Prospect Harbor, Maine, along with six other sculptors from around the world.  Here’s my first report:

August 11, 2014

Greetings from Maine!  The Symposium began a week ago today, and it’s been wicked busy, as they say here.  And exhausting, and fun!  Here’s a rundown of what I’ve been up to since leaving Olympia:

July 20:  I took the red-eye via Newark to Quebec City.  I had a relaxed sort of working vacation, visiting my friend Cyril Reade at his cottage about 35 minutes outside the city.  It’s in a small village on a good-sized lake with a nice beach.  We both had things to do; Cyril had projects around the cottage, plus work for Rutgers.  I finished a dozen of my continuing education units in order to renew my Wisconsin architectural license, and wrote a rather involved Fulbright reference letter for a colleague and friend from Evergreen.  We still managed to get to the lake in the late afternoons when the sun was less fierce and the Quebecois had gone back to their cottages for cocktails.  We also spent some time in Quebec City, did a little shopping, visited the Jade Museum (many spectacular ancient Chinese pieces, plus contemporary work from Canada and elsewhere), and rode the ferry across the St. Lawrence to Levis and back, just for the views.

Cyril’s cottage and Quebec City from the ferry crossing:

Cyril's Cottage, Quebec   Quebec City from the Levis Ferry

Monday, July 28 We drove down to Orland, Maine, where we stayed with my old friend Barbara Haring, who runs Orland Pottery.  We met 35 years ago at Penland!  Haven’t actually seen each other for over 20 years, so it’s been great to reconnect in person.

Tuesday, July 29: We drove to Castine, about 10 miles away, where my work will go. It’s a well-heeled small town, with lots of folks from “away” who have summered there for years, and a lot of locals, all of whom are very proud of the place, its sites, its character, and its history.   I met Debbie Neve, the sculpture committee chair, who was instrumental in getting Castine involved in the Symposium, and in raising money for the project.  Each of the seven artists is matched with a different town, and each town raises a third of the cost for their sculpture, beyond the $250,000 raised by the Symposium organizers.  I had no real idea how much community engagement there was up and down the Maine coast for this event – it’s a big deal!  There were over 8,000 visitors last year.  I’m feeling pretty fortunate to be a part of it all.

Debbie gave me an extensive tour of the town.  Later I met Jesse Salisbury, a sculptor and coordinator of the Symposium, at the site, with a local contractor who will probably do the installation.  The site is right next to the Wilson Museum, which covers the natural and cultural history of the area, and has a growing program.  It’s a challenging site that slopes from the street down to an embankment above the water, with the museum on one side and trees and a large transformer pole on the other.  Tuesday night there was a dinner at The Manor, a restaurant that used to be the home of the Commodore of the New York City Yacht Club.  I made a short presentation about my work, with pictures, before dinner and fielded questions.  It was a nice evening.

Old churches and giant old elms!

Castine, Church   Castine, Great Elm Tree

Wednesday, July 30: A kayak excursion to see the site from the water, plus a picnic lunch on Holbrooke Island across the Bagaduce River (more of a bay).  Then a break, then another boat ride on one of the boats of the Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, to see more, and meet more people.

The site from the water and from the street:

Castine: The site from the Water   Castine: The site from the street

Thursday, July 31:  Visited four different granite quarries with Jesse to see what stone was available.  Generally the blocks are already cut.  We also stopped by Jesse’s very impressive studio.

Friday, August 1: Cyril headed back to Quebec.  I spent the day documenting and drawing at the site.  Came up with my general concept that morning – a piece tentatively titled Home and Away – two words I heard a lot in Castine.

Saturday, August 2: Barbara ferried me to Ellsworth, Maine, where we did a little shopping, and I met Tilan Copson, who assists Jesse in organizing and coordinating the Symposium.  She brought me to Winter Harbor, where the sculptors and assistants are all staying in a large old bed and breakfast – a quirky place, but nicely appointed.  We have dinners here, and lunches on the field.  Breakfasts we do ourselves.  The artists all arrived – two young guys from Maine, an older Maine sculptor, a Korean, a Georgian, a woman from Switzerland, and me.  An eclectic and interesting bunch, and we’re getting along famously.

Sunday, August 3:  Jesse and I made a quick trip in the afternoon back to two quarries near Jonesboro, where we looked for stone for two of the others, and finalized my choices.  My stone is a grey granite with lavender highlights The Symposium began at 5 PM with an event at the field – lots of people again, and wine and food.

Monday, August 4:  We went back to the Fish Quarry near Jonesboro to load my stones.  I heard some thick Maine accents!  I rode back to the site with the trucker.  He talked non-stop!  I’ve got three stones – about 12 tons total!?!  First job was splitting off parts to get toward final shapes, then leveling them, then flattening the bottoms, then pre-drilling them for pins when they go on their foundations.  Between drilling and  splitting, shifting stones around with a crane, flush cutting (hard side ways, easier horizontally), and a couple thunder storms, that took the rest of the week – for the two big stones.  The third stone is almost done.  I completely lost track of time and thought Thursday was Wednesday!

Picking up the 14 foot long stone in the quarry, and my three stones on site:

Schoodic: Loading one of my stones   Schoodic: My three stones on site

Thursday, August 7 and Friday, August 8: Stayed up late on Thursday making a drawing of my scheme for another public presentation on Friday night, where the artists were all introduced and there was a short question and answer session.  We stopped early that day and I got to take a ride out to the end of the Schoodic Peninsula, part of Acadia National Park.  It’s an immense granite headland meeting the Atlantic with sweeping vistas.  I met more folks from the area at the presentation, including the State Representative for Castine and his wife.

Randima, one of the assistants, drilling the foundation pin hole on the long stone (each one has one now), and Jesse Salisbury directing the crane as we set my tall stone upright after flattening the bottom:

Schoodic: Drilling the pin hole   Schoodic: Standing up the tall stone

The three closest stones are mine.  Their bottom surfaces are flush cut and they’re ready to carve.  The drawing is of my concept for the project:

Schoodic: My three stones with bases flush cut   Schoodic: Home and Away Perspective

The stone with abstracted house forms is 9 feet high, The 14 foot long stone will have a polished meander on the top that people will want run their hands down,  I think.  The meander will point toward the open water of the Penobscot Bay estuary leading out to the Atlantic, the polished stone blending with the light on the water (that’s the plan, anyway).  The low stone will also have a meander, but will be low enough to sit on.  People like to watch the boat traffic.  My plan is to make a tactile and interactive piece for the community.

Saturday, August 9: Another work day.  I was fixing a grinder and nicked the knuckle of my right index finger – enough to require a couple stitches at the Ellsworth hospital emergency room.  Local stone sculptor Mark Harrington, who’s assisting at the Symposium, gave me a ride, so on the way back, I got to take a look at one of his public pieces and see his studio – the quirky combinations of big wood and stone there were playful and bold.  In the afternoon we did a bunch of crane work moving my stones around, and I started flattening the bottom of the third stone.   Saturday was the Lobster Fest in Winter Harbor, where we stay – lobster boat races all day, a craft fair (missed all that), and in the evening a street dance in the IGA parking lot just up the street, and a big display of fireworks.  I got as close as I could – they always delight me and make me start to laugh – I think of time I’ve watched them with Annie and Valerie in Rochester and Wisconsin.

Sunday, August 10:  Sundays are quiet days – no power or compressor on the field at Prospect Harbor.  There were visitors coming and going, including some from Castine.  Those of us who were around helped clean up stone chips and chunks (about a half a dump truck full!) and then some went fishing for mackerel with Jesse and his dad Jim, who is the tool whiz and crane operator at the Symposium – both require lots of patience and smarts!  Barbara came over from Orland (a good 1 ½ hours from here), and we went out to Schoodic again, then to Grindstone point opposite it, where we had a beer on the rocks (us, not the beer) and talked and checked out the bird life and more rocks.  The rocks at Schoodic, and blueberries at the symposium site:

So that’s what I’ve been up to.  No phone service, but I do have internet, and can borrow a phone or use the phone in the B&B, I think, if need be.  There’s plenty to do and learn, and plenty to think about.  It’s certainly a different perspective on my routine life.  It was great to have time in Castine to get to know the place and let my ideas coalesce, then to see the quarries and consider the stones available, and their potential.  When we finally began setting them upright Saturday is was great to see their energy.  I feel good about the idea and the stones.  Today, Monday, I flattened the bottom of the third stone, and Randima drilled its pin hole.  I spent some time drawing the stones in my sketchbook, planning and then on the two big stones, and began cutting the meander on the long stone this afternoon – so it’s well begun.  There’s lots to do – I have to draw up foundation plans (they’ll be precast), as well as my proposal for landscaping the site, and on the 20th I’ll be making another public presentation of my work at Hammond Hall here in Winter Harbor.  Tonight we went squid fishing – not much luck until most of us were leaving, then one of the other guys caught one.

I kept falling asleep over this report; I should aim for shorter ones more often!  And now I’ve gotta get to bed – everybody heads to the field between 7 and 8 to get set up and start working.

Regards to all of you –

Stone of the Schoodic Peninsula, and Maine blueberries!

Stones of the Schoodic Peninsula   Schoodic: Maine Blueberries

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