Photo by Christiana Mosca.

On Tuesday, March 1, the University of Maine art department hosted sculptor Celeste Roberge for her talk “Moving Thoughts Through Objects” in Lord Hall. Roberge is a professor emerita of sculpture at the University of Florida.

Roberge was chosen as the Littlefield Gallery Sculptor-in-Residence, a highly sought after position that allows artists to come speak at the university. She opened her lecture by addressing the conceptions regarding art and sculpture-making she held at the beginning of her career, and how this view has evolved as Roberge has found love in the meaning behind art. Roberge explained that this lecture was inspired by the desire to communicate with others about how she creates pieces that speak to the viewer. 

Dr. Justin Wolff, a professor of art history at UMaine, explained the benefits of hosting Roberge at UMaine. 

“The Littlefield Gallery Sculptor-in-Residence Program has proven invaluable for our undergraduate students,” Wolff said. “Working in collaboration with Greg Ondo, associate professor of art, the resident offers critiques of student work and delivers demos to model different sculpture processes. The students also gain insight into the methods and careers of professional sculptors, helping them refine their own aspirations for a career in the arts.”

Roberge has been an artist for years and jokes that she likes to change her studies roughly every decade because she likes to be constantly advancing and changing. Though she draws, her main focus is on sculpture. Her pieces are beautifully intricate and almost perfectly thought out when it comes to the actual art piece once it is in the final stages of concept and assembly.

Roberge first spoke of the creative process behind her work. She loves to create pieces where the idea or emotion behind them can vary between keen observers. She loves to work with new materials, such as limestone, regular stones and even some precious stones. These materials unify her pieces with the thoughts and emotions that drive them. Material doesn’t matter to her.

This fascination drives her to work with new materials, which in turn helps her to come up with new concepts and new pieces. She emphasizes the importance of movement and the harm of being stagnant.

At the event, Roberge took two approaches to show how she comes up with these intricate sculptures and how she impresses her ideas and feelings into the sculpture. She began with these large sculptures where chaise lounges had been put into the sculptures. She admired the beauty and intricacy of such furniture, especially since the design had lasted centuries and people were still buying them. The lounges were then encased in the stone, creating the “stacks” she often refers to these specific sculptures as. They eventually start to erode, or the furniture gets water damage and starts to fall apart, but Roberge says that it’s the natural process of life so stopping it would hinder the messages behind her pieces. 

She additionally created large metal cages to hold rocks in. They can be shaped like globes or humans or even furniture. She then fills these cages with perfectly smooth, round rocks. This is displayed in her piece “Rising Cairn,” a sculpture of a human figure hunched on the ground. Crafted with a metal cage and visibly filled with large stones, this piece seems to reflect both the strength and the crushing weight of expectations and grief that haunt the human experience.

The message behind her art is just as important as the medium itself. Roberge warns people that it’s okay to find your niche, but to be open to so many different possibilities and experiences. Roberge is an example of a sculptor who doesn’t shy away from anything and is the perfect artist to speak to art students courtesy of the art department. 

At this time, the department has plans to host three additional residents who have not been selected yet.