The sculpture exhibition by art dealer June LaCombe at Gilsland Farm in Falmouth is full of pleasant surprises – one of which was that the rain held off just long enough for visitors at the opening reception to explore the grounds.
“It’s a nice synthesis of art and place or environment,” said John Bowdren of Pownal, who sculpts wood and covers it in gold-leaf patina, creating flocks of birds and schools of fish. “June specializes in focusing the eye in a quiet way to make resting places. … And she arranges sales, which means that I can concentrate on creating.”
The installation, “A Celebration of Art and Nature,” features 82 sculptures by 35 New England artists lending their work through the end of September. Gilsland Farm is open to the public from dawn to dusk daily, free of charge.
“I’ve known June LaCombe for a while and have been to others of her installations,” said Corinne Greene of Cumberland. “And they’re amazing.”
If you’ve been to the Portland International Jetport and noticed the steel deer by Wendy Klemperer, you’ve seen what LaCombe does: She brings sculpture to outdoor spaces that are part of our everyday lives.
“She’s helped me transform and soften the airport,” Paul Bradbury, director of the jetport, told the crowd at the opening reception. “Engineers are not so artistic, and June was the one to bring sculpture in. Her passion was infectious.”
A few of the pieces currently at Gilsland Farm are earmarked as possibilities for the jetport, including a sculpture of a rabbit that would be at child-height just before entering Security. “Nothing polishes a piece like the hands of many, many people,” LaCombe said with a laugh.
She has regularly brought sculpture exhibits to her farm in Pownal, to Coastal Maine Botanical Garden in Boothbay, and to Maine Audubon, where she first met her husband Bill Ginn 40 years ago. These three venues are ideal for highlighting the interplay of art and nature and bringing an ecological element to her installations.
“She’s the brains behind all this. I’m just the guy with the bad back from helping move stuff around,” Ginn said. “In the end, in order for people to create sculpture, they need to have somebody to buy it. June connects those people.”
“I go to people’s houses and talk with them a great deal about where to site pieces, and I work with the artist to install it,” LaCombe said. “I’ve always worked to make it seem like the piece just effortlessly floats onto your property.”
Maine Audubon will receive 10 percent of sales from the current collection. “If half this show sells,” LaCombe said, “$30,000 would go to Maine Audubon.”
It’s a win-win for Maine Audubon, which is also drawing art lovers to Gilsland Farm.
“Oftentimes in society there’s art and there’s nature. June’s intention is to integrate sculpture into the landscape,” said Michelle Smith, communications and marketing manager for Maine Audubon. “It gets people here, and it gets people outside.”
“We’re interested in art and sculpture, and we know some of the sculptors,” said Dr. Arthur Weiss of Falmouth, exploring the art-filled peony garden. “We just saw this in the paper and decided we were going to take a look.”
“It’s great exposure,” said featured sculptor Roy Patterson of Gray. “June has done a lot for sculptors in New England. When I first came to Maine, sculpture was something that was hard to sell. Paintings sold; sculptures didn’t. But June has changed the situation.”
“We wait for her exhibition each year,” said Dick Hallstein of Yarmouth. “We have bought pieces almost annually.”
“I love sculpture,” said Virginia DeCesare of Cape Elizabeth. “I’m an artist, and I love the fact that June supports the sculpture community.”
“Maine has so much wonderful stone. Glaciers brought us presents from Canada,” said sculptor Andreas von Huene of Arrowsic.
He has four pieces installed at Gilsland Farm through September, including “Owl,” beside the peony garden.
“I’ve done quite a few owls, and sometimes my son says, ‘Is this going to be an owl on a stick, or an owl on a string?'” he said.
The Mythmakers, Donna Dodson and Andy Morelein of Boston, build temporary but monumental mythological figures, including the raven called “Sentinel” seen at Gilsland Farm on the road to the visitor center.
“We built it two years ago, and it’s made out of sapling, so it needs some touchups,” Dodson said, up on a ladder.
“The saplings are nice because we can build something substantial with just our hands,” Morelein said. If there was a buyer, he said, “We would build a fresh one. They’re very site specific.”
“The fact that June is combining art and nature shows an understanding of the world,” said Sue Sturtevandt, a volunteer with the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust (CELT). “She has been so generous in donating to nonprofits like CELT.”
LaCombe donated “Gyre” by Miles Chapin to CELT for a raffle running through mid-July.
“The Audubon Society is hosting this sculpture show,” Sturtevandt said, “but we have the same things in common, the appreciation of and belief and value of natural lands in our everyday lives. There’s something about the natural landscape that heals us and inspires us. It’s just an important part of my life.”
More information about the installation is available at www.jlsculpture.com.
Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer who lives near Scarborough Marsh. She can be reached at: