It started with a simple Facebook post:
“Feeling the need for a good art fix. Maybe a tour of outdoor sculpture. Reflecting on the beauty artists bring to the world (thank you).”
With those three sentences as a prompt, we’ve come up with a list of five must-see opportunities for outdoor sculpture along the Maine coast this summer.
A disclaimer: This list is based on recent visits to each location, and informed by personal tastes and sensibilities. We’ve suggested what we think are five excellent opportunities to see daring, inventive and creative sculpture. But it is by no means meant to be comprehensive or inclusive.
One that didn’t make this list is the newly retooled sculpture garden at the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland. (If you take the time to visit the Farnsworth, be sure to check out the refurbished Robert Indiana “LOVE” sculpture inside — that alone is worth the price of admission.) And the Ogunquit Museum of American Art is in the process of re-landscaping its sculpture garden, making its collection of Bernard Langlais animal sculptures the centerpiece.
We also made no attempt at suggesting inland locales, as this list is intended to provide a tour of logical and mostly convenient sculpture stops from Portland up the coast to Down East Maine.
So, without further ado, let the tour commence.
PORTLAND INTERNATIONAL JETPORT: In the last few years, largely because of the generosity of a single donor and the leadership of a visionary airport director, the jetport boasts some of Maine’s most dramatic sculpture.
It began in 2011 with the installation of eight welded steel pieces by Wendy Klemperer along the approach road, depicting wildlife common in Maine — deer, a porcupine and a wolf, the latter with his head held high and howling.
Collectively known as “Glimpse,” the eight-piece collection came as a gift of William D. Hamill of Yarmouth, who believes the best way to get people to look at art is to put it right in front of them in unexpected ways. More than 1.6 million passengers use the airport annually, and many more travel there to pick up and drop off family and friends.
Airport director Paul Bradbury, working with the Portland Public Art Committee and the City Council, has encouraged more. Last year, Steuben sculptor Jesse Salisbury installed his piece “Tidal Moon” on the grassy knoll outside the baggage claim doors. It’s a 14-foot-tall piece that features two large split granite columns, with a single granite sphere nestled between. It weighs about 8 tons, and again came as a gift to the city courtesy of Hamill.
Three more Salisbury pieces are planned. Two bench-like structures and another vertical granite behemoth called “Beach Pea” will be placed at the airport soon — likely this fall, pending approval by the art committee and the City Council. “Beach Pea” is a 9-foot granite form that’s shaped like a peapod with spherical seeds. One naturally formed granite bench will be placed by each sculpture.
Additionally, Bradbury has arranged for the installation of four pieces — one each by Cabot Lyford, Edwin Gamble, Steve Lindsay and Roy Patterson, in wood, bronze, granite and basalt, respectively — to be installed inside the airport. Another outdoor piece by Warren sculptor Jay Sawyer is also planned, pending city approval.
Portland International Jetport, 1001 Westbrook St. Admission is free. portlandjetport.org
ART GALLERY AT THE UNIVERSITY OF NEW ENGLAND, PORTLAND: UNE has hosted outdoor sculpture shows since 2001. The first ones were curated by Grant Jacks, a key proponent of Portland arts in the 1980s. He died in 2002, and the shows have continued in his honor since.
The annual “Sculpture Garden Invitational” is a highlight of the summer and fall in the city, and stands as the best opportunity for people to see a variety of sculpture by many different artists. This year, 10 artists have dozens of pieces across the landscaped back and side gardens at the UNE campus off Stevens Avenue. A labyrinth allows visitors to walk a rounded rock path in the woods around the gallery’s exterior.
Jacks was ahead of his time. Sculpture gardens were not common in Maine a dozen years ago. Today they are, and Jacks is a big reason why. His vision helped educate people about the sculpture possibilities.
The pieces range from very large to very small, and are simple, complicated, static and kinetic. One of our favorite is a sprawling, colorfully painted and polished aluminum piece by Melita Westerlund, “Spring (from the Cloud Series),” which stretches across the garden like a ribbon. More quiet is Carole Whelan’s “Garden Interlude,” which consists of two small figures seated on a garden bench, surrounded by lilies and basked by intermittent sunlight.
Other artists with pieces in the show are Nancy Nevergole, Jean Noon, Judy O’Donnell, Elizabeth Ostrander, Andy Rosen, Constance Rush, Patric Santerre, Antoinette Schultze and Cat Schwenk. The invitational is on view through Oct. 31.
The Art Gallery at UNE, 716 Stevens Ave., Portland. Gallery hours are 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesday and Friday to Sunday, and 1 to 7 p.m. Thursday. Admission is free. 221-4499; une.edu/artgallery
COASTAL MAINE BOTANICAL GARDENS, BOOTHBAY: As the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens have grown up, the sculpture opportunities have developed exponentially. The gardens will always be known first and foremost for their spectacular 8-foot-tall lilies and 10-foot-tall delphiniums. But they are also known, and widely loved, as a setting for outdoor sculpture.
June LaCombe, Maine’s best-known curator of indoor and outdoor sculpture, arranges shows at the Boothbay paradise annually. This year, she has lined up dozens of sculptors from across the region, many of whom created pieces specifically for the gardens and its seasonal theme of forest and timber.
The show is called “Living Wood,” and it places sculpture along the trail that circles the great lawn, as well as along the pond edges and through the butterfly gardens.
The artists have created pieces in wood with stains and materials designed to withstand the weather. John Bowdren’s hand-carved leaves and alewives are covered with gold and palladium leaf. Ray Carbone designed rustic benches made from Maine black locust. Ben Thompson’s “Green Man” hangs in the alcove, and features a finely carved leaf, while Dan West reimages driftwood as carved loons.
Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, 132 Botanical Gardens Drive, Boothbay. $14; $12 for ages 65 and older, $6 for ages 3 to 17; free for ages 2 and younger. Open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 633-4333; mainegardens.org
STEMWINDER SCULPTURE WORKS & GARDENS, WARREN: Jay Sawyer is a welder by trade and an artist by desire. He salvages industrial material and creates sculpture from it. Over the years, he has fashioned a three-acre sculpture park on his property just off Route 90 in Warren.
Sawyer draws about 1,000 visitors annually to his little park, which offers a leisurely stroll among several dozen pieces that he has spread out across the gardens, pond and grove.
Some are small and suitable for indoors. Others are large and intended for outdoor situations. Lately, Sawyer has been making spheres from material salvaged from the now-closed Brunswick Naval Air Station. He allows most of his work to take on its natural patina, and it blends nicely into the wooded environment.
Stewinder is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every Sunday and Monday through Oct. 10, and Sawyer also schedules monthly open studio tours. The next will be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.
Very likely, Sawyer will soon have a piece at the Portland International Jetport. The Portland Public Art Committee has signed off on a piece, and now it’s a matter of getting final approval from the City Council.
Stemwinder Sculpture Works & Gardens, 131 Camden Road (Route 90), Warren. Free admission. 273-3948; stemwindersculpture.com
SCULPTURE TRAIL OF MAINE, SCHOODIC AREA/DOWN EAST: For those headed Down East, the best sculpture in Maine — hands down — can be found along the Sculpture Trail of Maine, which features 27 sculptures sited from Bangor to Eastport. The pieces were made during the four Schoodic International Sculpture symposia, organized by Steuben artist Jesse Salisbury.
The next and last is scheduled for Prospect Harbor a year from now. Communities participating will be Surry, Lubec, Calais, Harrington, Jonesboro, Bucksport and Castine. Each of those towns will receive a sculpture created by an international artist, who will work on-site next summer with local rock.
The symposium began in 2007, and has continued every other year since, resulting in a growing stock of sculpture unique to Maine. These are large-scale pieces created by artists from across the globe.
The symposium amounts to an artist-in-residency program that gives sculptors the chance to focus on a single piece of public art. They work for six weeks to create a piece, which ends up in a sponsoring community.
The Down East trail is a big commitment. It covers 273 miles, but is worth the time and effort. Collectively, the trail represents the largest single public art collection in Maine.
Sculpture Trail of Maine, with 27 stops from Bangor to Eastport. Free. schoodicsculpture.org
Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be reached at 791-6457 or: