Nothing says “Welcome to Maine” like a giant slab of native granite.
Beginning today, passengers arriving at the Portland International Jetport will be greeted by a 14-foot-tall granite sculpture created by Jesse Salisbury, an artist from Down East.
“Tidal Moon” will be installed just outside the baggage claim door near the airport’s waiting parking lot. It will be visible from the road that winds along the airport terminal, the temporary parking lot and the walkway to the main parking garage.
William and Mary Louise Hamill of Yarmouth donated the sculpture from their collection.
“Out here, probably five or six people a year get to see it,” Hamill said Tuesday as Salisbury readied the piece for transport from Hamill’s backyard to Portland. “At the airport, it will be visible to thousands. And I’m still going to still see it at the airport whenever I travel.”
The Hamills donated a series of wildlife sculptures to the airport last fall. Those pieces – a herd of deer, a porcupine and a wolf known collectively as “Glimpse” – were created by a New Hampshire artist, Wendy Klemperer.
“Tidal Moon” features two large split granite columns, with a single granite sphere nestled between them. Salisbury made the piece from granite from near his home in Steuben. It weighs about eight tons.
Hamill donated the sculpture to the city to celebrate the airport’s recent expansion. A frequent traveler, Hamill said he was motivated to make his gifts to help ease the stress of flying.
As much as he enjoys looking at “Tidal Moon” at his home every day, he wants more people to enjoy the piece and get familiar with Salisbury and his work. “I like Jesse as a sculptor and as a person,” Hamill said.
The Portland City Council accepted the gift this spring at the recommendation of the Portland Public Art Committee. Its estimated value is $64,000. The Hamills also are paying for its transportation and installation, estimated at another $5,000.
The city will have to maintain the piece. Granite requires minimal maintenance, said June LaCombe, an art dealer who brokered the gift from Hamill to the city. Every five years or so, it should be checked for lichen, which can be removed with a power washer.
Because the piece will be in a high-security area, the threat of vandalism will be minimal, LaCombe said.
“Bill is giving his favorite piece and the best piece from his private collection,” she said. “It is a grand piece. He asked me, ‘What is the best Jesse Salisbury piece that I own?’ I told him, ‘Tidal Moon,’ and he said, ‘Then that’s the piece I want to go to the jetport.’ “
Hamill is a longtime art collector. As a board member of the Portland Museum of Art, he has dedicated himself to improving the museum’s collection, said museum director Mark Bessire.
“He loves the museum all the way, but he has a focus as a collector and collecting art from Maine artists. This is a wonderful extension of the museum collection. The airport is a community collection,” Bessire said. “He has taken his interest to a much wider audience.”
Bessire described “Tidal Moon” as “monumental and substantial. It’s one of Jesse’s finest works.”
Salisbury, 40, was born in Machias and graduated from Colby College in Waterville. In addition to doing his own work, Salisbury is the founder and host of the Maine International Sculpture Symposium, held every other year. This summer’s symposium will be at the University of Maine.
Portland City Councilor David Marshall, who serves on the Public Art Committee, praised the Hamills for their generosity, and their vision.
“The role of the Public Art Committee is to review gifts of art and make recommendations to the council. The pieces that we have seen at the airport are pretty easy for the Public Art Committee to accept,” he said.
“We really appreciate when patrons come forward and donate art to the city, particularly when they are pieces that are consistent with all of our guidelines. It makes it an easy decision for us.”
Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at: [email protected]