As a spooky October breeze blew through campus last Friday the Thirteenth, the University of Maine Lord Hall Art Gallery was teeming with art enthusiasts eager to explore the latest exhibit, titled “Carved Stone: Maine Artists.” Twenty-six stone sculptures from eight artists were on display, ranging from the size of a teapot to the size of a wardrobe.
Laurie Hicks, a UMaine professor of art and the curator of Lord Hall, co-curated the event with Greg Ondo, a UMaine assistant professor of art specializing in sculpting. Both professors were present at the 5:30 p.m. reception, as were many UMaine art students and local community members with a passion for the arts.
The eight artists featured were Mark Herrington, Kazumi Hoshino, Jesse Salisbury, Tim Shay, Hugh Lassen, as well as Matthew Foster, Richard Reichenbach and Glenn all of whom are alumni of UMaine’s art program.
Hick’s press release for the event explained how, “The exhibition seeks to bring attention to the strength of Maine’s stone carving history and the contemporary artists who work within and endeavor to expand upon those traditions. In addition, the exhibition illustrates the influence of Maine’s Schoodic International Sculpture Symposium (SISS) on contemporary Maine sculpture. The SISS included five symposia (2007–2014) that resulted in 32 world-class large granite works spread around the state.”
The sculptures were all created by Maine artists, most of whom sourced their materials locally. Each artist chooses a different type of stone depending on their desired result, and the materials ranged from hard stones like granite to soft stones like soapstone, and many types in between, like marble or alabaster.
Ondo expressed excitement at the exhibit displaying the culmination of all the artists hard work, and shared how most sculptors begin with clay before progressing to wood or wax. “Stone work is the pinnacle of sculpting, as it is the most difficult but also strongest material to work with,” Ondo said.
Lassen was present at the reception and spoke briefly about his inspirations for his pieces He expressed his gratitude for the positive reception he’s received since displaying his work. One of his more ambitious pieces from this year, titled “Crocodile,” is on display in Lord Hall. The large piece is crafted from soapstone and resembles a striking and abstract crocodile form, whimsically inviting its viewer to approach it from a unique angle.
Hoshino also spoke at the reception, explaining how one of her smaller pieces, titled “Warm Wind” and crafted from Jonesboro red granite and black granite, is actually a model for a much larger sculpture. That sculpture dwarfs its model at a towering 10-foot height, and currently resides at a public park in Downeast Maine.
Foster, a UMaine alum, described his unusual inspiration for his piece titled “Samara,” saying, “A lot of my work is based off of simplified or abstracted natural forms. [Samara] is actually based off of a maple seed.” The sculpture presents itself as a curved hook, with a smooth finish that begs to be touched. Foster used power tools to complete it, and he reckons it took him about a month to finish the piece in its entirety.
All of the pieces are delicately spaced and arranged in a way that invites you to admire them from every angle; walking around the stark white exhibit feels like a stroll through a serene rock garden. Some pieces are geometric and orderly, while others resemble natural forms like waves, clouds or animals. The range of materials creates a rainbow of stone, and the finishes vary from matte to polished. You may be tempted to run your hand along the cool stone, but try to refrain. The installment took almost two years of planning and prepping, with each piece placed perfectly in the proper position.
Too many students are unaware of the beautiful gallery tucked away in Lord Hall (located on the Mall across from Stevens Hall). If you have a few moments to spare between classes, be sure to check out the impressive exhibit. Each sculpture is the culmination of time, effort and passion from the artists, and should be admired as such.
The sponsors for the event include the Elizabeth Graves Endowment Fund, the Cultural Affairs and Distinguished Lecture Series and Kelly and Jane Littlefield of the Littlefield Gallery. The exhibition will remain free and open to the public for the until Friday, Nov. 17. The Lord Hall Gallery is open on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.