FALMOUTH – The mountain lion lurks among the broken tree branches, ready to pounce.
The fierce wolf stands at rigid sentinel at the top of the grassy clearing.
The elk, his massive rack blending in with the thick forest, lords over all like an almighty king.
The storyland scene is the creation of sculptor Wendy Klemperer and contemporary art curator June LaCombe. They have filled the rolling, tree-choked campus of Maine Audubon at Gilsland Farm with larger-than-life portrayals of animals common to Maine and those that used to rule the landscape but have been driven away.
In addition to the extirpated cats, wolves and elk, the sculptural installation also includes portrayals of animals we see every day: deer, fox and porcupines.
Klemperer creates her animals from salvaged industrial material. Essentially, her pieces are gestural sketches in steel. She welds reinforcement rods, spikes, nails and other material together to create mythical renderings of nature’s most graceful inhabitants.
Her pieces are lifelike in their shape and form, although she tends to exaggerate their scale.
Despite their size, they blend in naturally with the landscape.
“I’m mostly interested in the lines of the animals,” said Klemperer. “I’m not interested in finding new uses for found objects. I really don’t care if you recognize the salvaged material. I want you to see and appreciate the animal.”
Klemperer’s installation of 23 animals will remain in the landscape at Maine Audubon for the next year. The exhibition formally opens on Saturday, although anyone visiting Gilsland Farm can see Klemperer’s work right now.
Many of these pieces have been on view at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay.
Right now, the mostly dark sculptures hide themselves against the natural and lush backdrop of green and brown of Gilsland Farm. LaCombe has placed the pieces in a relaxed environment.
They are intentionally subtle — chatty folks might miss some of the pieces altogether if they walk the trails without paying attention.
The animals will look different in the changing colors of fall and the stark setting of winter. Klemperer, who lives in New Hampshire and New York, is eager to get back to Falmouth when the snow flies to view her work in the natural setting of winter. She never had the opportunity to see her animals among snow at Boothbay this past winter.
“The change of season will have an impact on how people will see them,” she said.
Klemperer calls her exhibition “Re-Imagined” because her pieces suggest a time when the elk and other wild giants wandered across North America.
LaCombe hopes the sculptures provide an invitation for people to visit Maine Audubon time and again.
“These pieces enliven the landscape. People who have come here again and again will see this place in a new way,” she said.
The Klemperer installation is one of two sculpture shows at Gilsland and one of three shows that LaCombe is organizing this spring and summer. Also on view at Gilsland, both indoors and outdoors, are sculptures by Lise Becu and Ray Carbone.
At her Hawk Ridge Farm in Pownal, LaCombe will host her annual installation of work by New England artists. All three shows open Saturday.
Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:
Addendum: This article was corrected at 1:28 p.m. June 3, 2010, to fix the spelling of sculptor Wendy Klemperer’s name.