Following a cart path that led away from the main trail at Shepard’s Family Farm Preserve in Norway, Maine, today, Master Naturalist Jackey Bailey and I suddenly found ourselves in an undulating field of wooden sculptures.
Our intrigue was instant. Recycled and found wood transformed into artwork. I’d seen two of the sculptures before, but had somehow missed the other four that graced this property. The first on our tour–“Birdhouses,” their eyes hollowed out for entry; and faces reminiscent of fellow travelers on our Earth journey.
“Birds” also gave us pause as we admired motion.
And nearby, “Cat.” It struck me that “Birds” flew toward the “Birdhouses,” while “Cat” sat nearby, much the same as the neighborhood cats frequent our birdfeeders at home.
I’d previously visited with “Mrs. Noah,” but our reverence today was just the same as we watched her gather feathered friends two-by-two.
“Bird in Flight” offered a sense of movement through its feather-tipped wings.
And finally, “Owl.” Of all, this was my least favorite because the wise old predator appeared mad with the world. But then, he had all the wisdom and perhaps he really was not happy with what he saw and knew.
All of these were the creations of artist Bernard Langlais. According to The Langlais Art Trail Web site: “Despite his commercial success, by the mid-1960s Langlais became disenchanted by the pressures of New York gallery culture. Interested in working on a larger scale, he purchased a farmhouse in Cushing (Maine) and moved permanently to his native state. In the last eleven years of his life, he constructed more than sixty-five monumental wood sculptures on the land around his home, including his best-known commission, the over seventy-foot-tall Indian for the town of Skowhegan, Maine. During this period he also produced a massive oeuvre of two- and three-dimensional works exploring the patterns, textures, and expressive powers of the animal kingdom.”
These sculptures and others at the Roberts Farm Preserve are on loan to Western Foothills Land Trust through The Kohler Foundation of Colby College.
As Jackey and I noted, it was a totally different take on the natural world. Art made of wood, much of it repurposed, and left to the elements. Worth a wonder.
Soon after, we parted paths. I journeyed home and felt instantly drawn to take a look at the sculpture park behind our home where nature’s artwork is always on display and frequently offers an opportunity to reflect upon the relationship between man and nature.
The sun highlighted one of the many tree stumps that spoke to logging operations and demonstrated the process of returning from whence it once came as lichens and mosses and balsam saplings took advantage of nutrients offered.
Other cut stumps reminded me of the circular movement leading toward the center of a labyrinth–appearing quick and easy, and yet providing a time to slow down while following the path.
In some ways, the target fungi that attacks Red Maples, demonstrated a similar pattern and journey.
Because I’d discovered it last year, I knew where to look for the Orange Mock Oyster mushroom (Phyllotopsis nidulans), and found the underside gills to be equally contemplative.
Then a different look–another take on birds in flight; these sewn into paper birch bark slowly decaying on the ground. Do you see them?
Ice needles offered the most temporary of sculptures that spoke to frost slowly invading the surface soil.
Ice formed around fallen leaves never ceased to amaze me.
And the ultimate in Man and Nature and Art forms had to be the powerline appearing to lead to Mount Washington, where snow swirled in the wind.
But of all that I saw today, it was the eyeglasses on one of the “Birdhouses” that caught my whimsy the most. I only wish a bird had paused to pose.
Manmade, Naturemade, Manmade with Nature, Naturemade with Man–there’s no denying the beauty of the art of nature.