Schoodic Sculpture Tour
The Schoodic International Sculpture Symposium is a biennial cultural event that brings artists, communities and visitors together to create a public sculpture collection in eastern Maine. To date they have completed 27 installations from Bangor to Eastport and created the Schoodic Sculpture Tour. This year is the fifth symposium and possibly the last, unless they can expand the geography of the tour to include other areas of Maine. Seven sculptors from Maine and around the world are chosen from a field of 190+ applicants. They come together for six weeks during the northeast summer to saw, chop, chisel, grind and polish massive blocks of granite. We are awestruck by the scale and complexity of these monuments and the men and women manipulating this medium. This open-air studio is totally accessible; we can walk around and through the work area and talk to the artists as they work. It’s noisy, dusty, muddy and thoroughly fascinating.
From Left to Right – Top to Bottom: Bertha Shortis (Switzerland), Matthew Foster (Maine), Kyoung Uk Min (South Korea), Miles Chapin (Maine), Valerian Jikia (Republic of Georgia), Robert Leverich (Washington), Roy Patterson (Maine)
Every time we head east along Highway 1, we pass a huge steel building with CHAINSAW SAWYER ARTIST LIVE SHOW in bold red print and a huge bald eagle grasping two chainsaws in it’s talons painted on the side. There is also a handmade sign with a list of chainsaw awe inspiring accomplishments. Try as we might, we can no longer resist the lure of this roadside attraction. Every evening at 7, for the mere cost of ten dollars per adult Ray Murphy puts on his chainsaw-sawing extravaganza.
We arrive a little before seven and we are the only ones here besides Ray and his assistant. Ray greets us with a warm handshake and a hug. He tells us a bit about his history; starting at the age of ten, he picked up his dad’s chainsaw and cut his name into a piece of wood and chainsaw art was invented. As a teenager, he tried to enter one of his 100% cut by a chainsaw pieces in a carving contest and was rejected because the piece was too crude and the chainsaw was not an appropriate carving tool. So Ray rejected the term carver and calls himself a Chainsaw Sawyer Artist TM, one who creates art only with a chainsaw. He shows us some of his commissioned work. His specialties are eagles. President Reagan had one of Ray’s eagles in the white house during his term. His feats are listed in Ripley’s Believe It or Not and he was a topic in the 1984 version of Trivial Pursuit. After checking out the gift shop we all head over to the theatre for the show.
The theatre seats 400 but Ray freely admits that he has never had anywhere near that many people to one of his shows. Even though there are only two of us, Ray seems excited to get on with the show. We take our seats in the front row and Ray enters the sawing booth. It’s a sound proof, ventilated room with a bulletproof glass front and a camera inside that sends video to a wide screen mounted above the room.
The lights house lights dim and the assistant reads about Ray’s history. Ray comes out and sits with us in the audience; he makes a few adjustments to the sound and then enters the booth. He starts the saw (we can’t hear or smell it) and proceeds to attack a piece of wood. In a matter of minutes he has created a table, two chairs, a hamburger (top and bottom bun and the patty) a pile of fries and a squirrel. Then he proceeds to saw 50 NUMBERS and THE ALPHABET on a Popsicle stick, my name on a number 2 pencil, Chris’ name on a wooden belt buckle, (while he’s wearing it,) the numbers 1 to 14 on a toothpick and a collection of animals and shape - some sawn with two chainsaws at the same time. All of the art is given away to the audience (with the exception of the toothpick) and we come out with the squirrel, Popsicle stick, pencil, personalized belt buckle and a crescent moon carving. (Could have had all of it but that just seems greedy and we have no space for it.) The show is well worth the price of admission. Ray is a true entertainer… Just don’t call him a carver.
A fellow visitor to the Schoodic Symposium mentioned that he was headed over to Lunaform to pick up a couple of pots. A few days later we notice a sign on Hwy 1 – “Lunaform first left after the bridge.” So we take that first left and follow the signs into the forest to a Japanese Style building. It’s all very Zen with large urns and planters set artistically around the grounds. At the studio we are greeted by one of the workers who invites us in, and answers our questions about what they produce and how they do it and hands us a couple of catalogues. (Silly us… we thought it was a pottery studio…)
Lunaform LLC creates hand-turned, dry-packed concrete garden urns, planters, pots and more ranging from colossal 1,500-pound planters to their small works – 210-pound knee high “Luna” urns, the company’s namesake piece. Their technique creates seamless works of concrete that are steel reinforced. All of the pieces are beautifully designed and they are the only ones in the country doing it.
When we arrive they are in the process of unmolding pieces that cured over the weekend. Next we are shown the curing room and the paint studio. The colorist explains her processes and shows us some of the finishes and explains the processes to achieve them. Then we are encouraged to wander around the buildings to see the wide variety of pieces they produce. During these wanderings we meet one of the owners, Dan. He shows us an Asian inspired LED light fixture that they are working on.
Pulling into an RV park and setting out a couple of 1,500 lb. urns around Dimples, instead of some neon whirligigs or plastic pink flamingos… that would be sweet… now… if they only made them in Styrofoam…