Just as other cities in Maine have followed Portland’s lead in establishing art walks to promote culture and civic pride, so too have they invested in public art. That’s evident across Maine, but especially so on the midcoast, where new sculpture has been placed in Brunswick and Rockland that complement one of Maine’s finest outdoor fountains by modernist William Zorach at the Bath city park.
There are many good pieces to see up and down the coast. We’ve picked six of our favorites that make for a nice day trip, and also suggest other stops along the way to enrich your cultural experience.
We start in Brunswick and Bath, two communities with long histories of art and culture — and public art.
Brunswick Public Art donated this carved granite piece by Arrowsic native Miles Chapin to the town of Brunswick in June. Chapin designed it to welcome passengers as they depart the train. Three smooth, arching strands of granite come together and form an opening, through which downtown Brunswick is visible in the near distance. Chapin carved the piece from a single block of granite, and placed it on a base of gray granite.
Interesting fact: Chapin participated in the Schoodic International Sculpture Symposium in 2014. His piece from the symposium, “Nexus,” is in front of the Calais Free Library. He also has a piece at Viles Arboretum in Augusta, and shows his work at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay and Maine Audubon in Falmouth. He lives in Vermont.
The bronze statue of Joshua Chamberlain that sits in a small park at the corner of Park Row, Maine Street and Bowdoin College is easily overlooked if you just drive by. It’s worth taking the time to observe up close. Sculptor Joseph Query depicts the Maine native and Civil War hero with hat in one hand at his side, the other reaching out, perhaps in a gesture of peace or negotiation. His sword is sheathed on his backside.
Interesting fact: The piece was dedicated May 2003. It sits on city land, and serves as a perfect starting point for visitors of the Joshua Chamberlain Museum, just across at 226 Maine Street. The Pejepscot Historical Society, which runs the Chamberlain museum, recently received a mock-up of the bust of the Chamberlain sculpture. It is on display in the museum, which was the adult home of Chamberlain and his family.
The pair of lions that bookend the historical front entrance and grand steps of the Bowdoin Museum were art of the original Walker Art Building, designed by Charles McKin and opened in 1894. The artist is unrecorded. They are copies of the lion sculptures at the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence, Italy. McKim included the lions in the building scheme, as well as two bronze statues of Sophocles and Desmosthenes, which were conserved last summer.
Interesting fact: The lions probably show up in more photos from Bowdoin than any campus landmark. There is a long tradition of students, their families and visitors posing for photos with the lions, which regally face the quad.
While in Brunswick: If you’re checking out the Bowdoin lions, there’s no excuse not to stopping in to see “Night Visions” at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art. The exhibition features only paintings of nighttime scenes, and it’s getting rave reviews. Brunswick also is home to several art galleries, including Icon Contemporary Art, 19 Mason St., which is ruggedly dedicated to contemporary Maine art and has been for many years, and the Gallery at 11 Pleasant Street, which has a group show of summery Maine scenes on view now.
Bath is home to one of Maine’s prized outdoor fountains, “Spirit of the Sea.” The Bath Garden Club commissioned modernist sculptor and Georgetown resident William Zorach to make the fountain in 1959, and it was unveiled three years later. Zorach clearly gave his best effort for Bath. He portrays an elegant, female figure emerging from the water below with swanlike grace. She stands more than 7 feet tall.
Interesting fact: Zorach was an accomplished painter before taking up sculpture in 1918. His paintings were part of the landmark Armory Show in New York in 1913, but Zorach felt more naturally inclined toward sculpture and eventually settled on it exclusively. The Friends of Zorach Fountain celebrated the fountain’s 50th anniversary in 2012, and provide regular upkeep.
While in Bath: The Maine Maritime Museum has an exhibition about the spirit and work ethic of maritime people. On the way to Rockland: Consider stopping at River Arts in Damariscotta, for a “Mainly Maine” juried group show.
No city, not even Portland, is undergoing an arts renaissance quite like Rockland. The downtown is full of galleries and cafes, and the city is buzzing with the planned opening of the new Center for Maine Contemporary Art in summer 2016. Meanwhile, attention is being paid to city’s public and private collections of outdoor art.
Bernard Langlais’ untitled camel sculpture is the latest addition to the growing outdoor sculpture garden at the Farnsworth. It was uncrated in early August, and now stands alongside pieces by Robert Indiana, Stephen Porter, Abbott Pattison and Jesse Salisbury. The camel was among many oversized wooden sculptures that Langlais made from found objects at his farm in Cushing. He completed the camel just before his death in 1977.
Interesting fact: The camel came to the Farsworth as a gift from Colby College and the Kohler Foundation, which were charged with conserving and dispersing the Langlais estate after the death of the artist’s widow, Helen, in 2010. Museums, libraries and other institutions across Maine received similar gifts.
Warren sculptor Jay Sawyer made this orb with railroad ties that he salvaged from across Maine. It symbolizes the history of the railroad in Rockland and Rockland’s emergence as an arts destination. The tracks used for the base came from abandoned track in the city.
Interesting fact: Sawyer is a Rockland native, who graduated from Maine Maritime Academy and sailed as a merchant marine before taking up welding and salvaging, which led to his interest in making art. He operates Stemwinder Sculpture Works & Garden in Warren.
While in Rockland: Dowling Walsh Gallery shows rotating works by gallery artists, including Eric Green, David Graeme Baker and Cig Harvey. Don’t pass up Caldbeck Gallery, with new work by Bayard Hollins on view through most of September.