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Bob Keyes

Bob Keyes has written about the arts in Maine since 2002. He’s never been much an artist himself, other than singing in junior high school chorus and acting in a few musicals. But he’s attended museums, theaters, clubs and concert halls all his life, and cites Bob Dylan as most influential artist of any kind since Picasso. He lives in Berwick.

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Posted: May 28, 2019

Children’s book takes a new look at sculptor Bernard Langlais

Written by: Bob Keyes

Pat Davidson Reef will sign copies of the revised edition of “Bernard Langlais Revisited” at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Maine Historical Society in Portland. Image courtesy of Maine Authors Publishing

Maine arts writer Pat Davidson Reef has updated her young readers biography of the late Maine artist Bernard Langlais, originally published in 1985, and will sign copies of the book and talk about Langlais and his legacy at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Maine Historical Society.

Reef, who lives in Falmouth, made significant changes to the book, “Bernard Langlais Revisited.” The revised edition includes  information about the Langlais Sculpture Preserve created on the grounds of the artist’s home in Cushing with more than 65 wooden sculptures and the Langlais Art Trail, which includes dozens of stops around the state, as well as information about the restoration and conservation of Langlais’ art that is scattered around Maine. Much of that restoration work was done by Maine restoration and preservation specialists Steve Dionne and Ron Harvey. And while the 1985 edition was published in black and white, the new book is in color.

Reef also updated the biography to include the efforts of Langlais’ widow, Helen Langlais, to ensure her husband’s work and legacy would be honored. Helen Langlais taught in the community school in Cushing for many years, and Reef wanted to ensure her memory. “Helen had a big impact in her community, and I didn’t want to forget her,” Reef said.

Bernard langlais tends to one of his sculptures, “Crucifixion.” Photo courtesy of Colby College Museum of Art

Bernard Langlais was born in Old Town and died in Cushing in 1977 at age 56. He was a painter and sculptor, and is best known for his large-scale whimsical wooden sculptures. He was adept at representing animals in his work and was particularly fond of lions. In the book, Reef quotes Helen Langlais as saying, “Bernard loved doing lions. In fact, he looked something like a lion, that mane of hair always flying.”

The book was the first in Reef’s Maine Art Series for Young Readers. She also wrote about the late artist Dahlov Ipcar in 1987, which she updated in 2016 following Ipcar’s death. The next book in the series will be a biography of Maine artist David Driskell, scheduled for publication in 2020.

A retired school teacher, Reef writes her books for kids and with adults also in mind. “It’s a children’s book and an art catalog. It’s for children 8 to 12 and for adults who want a quick overview of the artist over the last 30 years,” she said. “The book is a reflection of new material and insights that I didn’t think about in 1985 when the first book was done.”

She writes in the book, “Langlais sculptures show a boundless love of life and a fearless adventure in it. His use of materials from the environment makes us aware of the beauty found in nature and the beauty of art created from it. His works show us how to look at things in different ways. Most of all, his works have a sense of humanity. They touch us all.”

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