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CreativeGround talked with Maine artist Anne Alexander about her experience as a sculptor in Maine. Inspired by the woods in her own backyard, Anne works with numerous mediums including stone, clay, and wood to produce work that reflects the nature around her. Her many collaborations take her all over New England showing and producing work.
CG: What is a typical day like for you as a sculptor in New England?
ANNE: At the moment, I’m doing a lot of shoveling and cross-country skiing in Maine - where I live - along with working as a substitute teacher, which helps me pay the bills. As for my sculpture career, in the winter I tend to spend a lot of time applying to opportunities such as grants, exhibits, residencies and sculpture-teaching gigs. Often these proposals involve sketching ideas for new sculptures. I also work in clay on a small-scale. As soon as the weather has warmed up, sometimes on a sunny and relatively warm winter day I will rough-carve large logs outdoors using a chainsaw. I usually finish these with hand tools or carving gouges powered with an air carving tool. I can only carve for 3-4 hours a day as the movements are intense and physically demanding. In clay, I tend to do realism studies of actual natural specimens. Clay also allows me to work quickly and to easily experiment with color. I show and sell these works in galleries or list them on my Etsy shop. Some of these smaller clay pieces provide ideas for large-scale works in wood or stone.
ANNE: For three years, I have shown sculpture in Art in The Park in Elm Park in Worcester, Massachusetts. In 2013 over a six-day period, I carved a giant acorn under a tarp in the park. This was the most public location in which I’ve ever worked. I thoroughly enjoyed answering questions and talking to people from all walks of life and many nationalities. This sculpture was moved on to the EcoTarium in Worcester - which eventually purchased it - so museum visitors may continue to enjoy it.
Another wonderful event I took part in was The Andres Institute of Art International Symposium in Brookline, New Hampshire. This is an annual three-week event wherein four sculptors each create a large-scale permanent sculpture to be installed on the Andres Institute lands. Andres provides the raw materials, tools, technical advice, and tractors and human power to move and install the sculptures. While there, I carved the sculpture “Touch Me” out of three granite boulders. This is a wonderful sculpture park to visit any time of the year.
This past year, I visited the Center for Maine Craft store located at the Gardiner, Maine turnpike rest area to have my small-scale clay pieces juried for consideration. This store is full of Maine-made crafts and does an excellent job selling work. I showed sculpture in a two-person exhibit at the center’s gallery. The Maine Craft Association also recommended my larger sculpture for an installation in a park in Gardiner. While doing this project, I became acquainted with the director of The Gardiner Boys and Girls Club. We put together a three-month-long program and received funding from the Maine Arts Commission to teach sculpture and drawing from nature. The program culminated in a well-received exhibit of the kid’s art.
CG: You clearly collaborate with a lot of New England organizations, festivals, and people. If you could collaborate with any other New England creative business, cultural nonprofit, or artist, which/whom would it be and why?
ANNE: There are many but here are a few:
ANNE: Maine and all of New England is a wonderful place for a sculptor to get outdoors and into the woods or waters to find inspiration in nature as well as to scavenge raw materials for projects. I hike, bike, cross-country ski, kayak and swim right near my home. I have a vegetable and flower garden and take beachcombing walks. Lately I’ve been looking closely at and sketching seaweed and scavenging driftwood to use as bases for my small ceramic pieces. I also visit sculpture shows at galleries and parks in Maine, Boston, and New York City.
CG: What was the last New England creative business or cultural nonprofit you visited and what did you see?
Anne: Recently, when I visited Boston to attend the New England Foundation for the Art’s Public Art Discussion Series, I stopped by the new upstairs location of the Pucker Gallery on Newbury Street. This is a must-see for anyone interested in ceramics.
Last February I made the drive to Norway, Maine to see a solo show of friend, Peter Herley, at a place called The Center for Ecology-Based Economy. The Center is interested in starting an art and local economy program that will include window and gallery exhibits, open studios, street fairs, etc. to help artists and the local economy. Norway is an adorable small town with many unique businesses and artists and while I was there, I also visited the workshop and gallery of a local woodcarver.
CG: Name three New England artists, creative businesses, or cultural nonprofits we should all know about.
ANNE: Although quite a trek, I recommend a trip to Eastport, Maine, the first place the sunrise appears in the US. There are galleries including the Eastport Breakwater Gallery, where I show my work; the Tides Institute & Museum of Art; and various artist studios. One can also take a ferry from Canada and Campobello Island between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
June LaCombe is a curator who I recommend checking out. Each year Ms. LaCombe curates and plans installations of one or more outdoor sculpture exhibits in Maine. She does a wonderful job at promoting New England based sculptors and their work.
ANNE: I believe those of us who live in Maine have chosen to live here either because we have family roots here, or for the beauty of the landscape. It’s easier and less expensive to find studio space to work in here, though jobs do not pay as much as they do in other states and the heat bills during winter can be a drawback. My own studio is unheated and I work inside my house in the winter. Although I often need to travel to exhibit my sculpture, I desire to live where I can walk out of my door and into the woods.
CG: How does CreativeGround serve you as an artist?
ANNE: CreativeGround provides me with an opportunity to promote my work and is a great place to search for other organizations that might exhibit or fund my work. In other words, it fosters connections between New England artists and organizations.
CG: Why should New England artists, creative businesses, and cultural nonprofits be listed on CreativeGround?
ANNE: To foster connections throughout New England rather than just our home state. In Maine and other New England states, the artists who reside in more rural locations can be somewhat isolated. CreativeGround website provides a link to like-minded artist souls and locations to exhibit our work.
CG: Could you tell us about any projects you’re currently working on?
ANNE: I’m currently in the planning stages of a sculpture installation project working with students from Worcester City Schools. We’ll be exhibiting in this year’s Art in The Park in Worcester’s Elm Park. Planning has been done, funds requested, and we are awaiting to hear of the results.
This April I will be part of a four-woman group show “Bearing Fruit” at the Maine Farmland Trust Gallery in Belfast, Maine (another beautiful seaside art town). I will be showing a series of ceramic vegetable and fruit sculptures inspired by farmer’s market and home garden produce. I also just submitted an application for I-Park’s Environmental Art program in East Haddam, Connecticut.
Thank you to Anne for taking the time to answer some questions about her day-to-day experience as an artist working in Maine and showing throughout New England. Stay tuned for our next "On the CreativeGround" blog and take a look at our previous blogs here:
KnotworkMaple carved at Elm Park, Art in the Park and now located at the Ecotarium
"Touch Me": Andrews Institute Symposium
"Turitella": Maple and oak currently in Meredith New Hampshire
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