Art for Acres Stone Symposium: Rocking the art form

Tue, 08/01/2023 - 8:45am

    An artist’s inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere – photographs, events, experiences, dreams, imagination and talent. Six stone sculptors recently spent 10 days, July 21- 30, at Boothbay Region Land Trust’s seaside field creating new work for BRLT’s Art for Acres Stone Symposium & Art Auction.

    Almost all are members of Maine Stone Workers Guild. Isabel Catherine Kelley, John Catizone Jr., Joseph DiMauro, Sam Finkelstein, Dan Ucci and Andreas von Huene worked on new sculptures to be completed for the Friday, Aug. 4 auction at the Farmhouse. Artists and artisans across the Boothbay Region and beyond have also donated art for this auction, the Land Trust’s primary fundraiser held every four years.

    This Art for Acres symposium drew innumerable curious onlookers, and perhaps a few art collectors or people planning on attending the auction. Most of these people spoke with the artists and asked questions about the sculptures.

    Stone symposiums in Maine are held every two years at various locations and have attracted the public’s attention: The International Schoodic Sculpture Symposium began in 2007 (; the J.C. Stone Symposium and the Hallowell Granite Symposium ( The first held in the Boothbay Region was the Maine Coast Stone Symposium held at Boothbay Railway Village in August 2017. In 2019, it was called the Maine Stone Symposium and was held on Boothbay Common.

    On July 26 and 28, I went to the Land Trust to find out what the six were working on. When your muse is the ocean, the return of a tuna tournament attracts your attention! Such is the case for Catizone, of Boothbay and New Hampshire. Catizone designed a bluefin tuna to be mounted onto a base inspired by the Boothbay Harbor event resurrected after 40 years in 2022.

    Catizone began his fine art stone sculpting in 2016 after owning an aerospace engineering company for many decades. Before this event, he has tended to work in smaller sculptures of marble or alabaster, and has work at Maine Art Gallery. His first symposium experience was in Hallowell in 2021 as a helper. For this one, he went around the Maine quarries looking for just the right granite for his bluefin tuna sculpture. He found it in Rockport: Silver Cloud.

    “I like the clefs and the colors that make it pop and it fits the requirements for the fish,” said Catizone, who had brought the fish to BRLT roughed out. “I’m pinning the fish to a base and will be using stainless steel pins to hold it in place. This is the largest piece I’ve done. I’m still working, shaping its face. The real bluefin tuna has a bulge in front and behind its eyes and it is a dark gray on top with a white belly. I’ll polish the top and leave the belly as it is.”

    Von Huene was inspired by a photograph by Edward S. Curtis, who spent 30 years photographing more than 80 North American Indian tribes. The photo taken in 1910 is called “Waiting in the Forest-Cheyenne.”

    He started out making a clay model of the figure. A Google search led to the website Valley Fine Art, where several of Curtis’ photographs are available. About this image the photographer wrote this description: “At dusk in the neighborhood of the large encampments young men, closely wrapped in non-comittal blankets or white cotton sheets, may be seen gliding about the tipis or standing motionless in the shadow of the trees, each one alert for the opportunity to steal a meeting with his sweetheart.”

    Von Huene did not interpret the figure in the image as romantic. “I see an old, anxious woman waiting for something. She’s looking cold. I’ve adapted it to be someone who’s wrapped themselves up waiting for a Nor’easter. Maybe living in northern New England influenced my perception.”

    East Boothbay-based DiMauro has immersed himself in stone sculpting since Ucci invited him to be an apprentice at the first Hallowell Symposium in 2021. The granite used for his auction sculpture told him what it would become. The piece he was working on for the auction is of Cape Neddick granite. It is his eighth sculpture.

    “I liked the sheer size of it – on its base it’s 12 feet tall; and its odd shape,” DiMauro said. “I go for a stone’s natural form and try to highlight it, with the stone more or less telling me what it wants to be.”

    DiMauro had cut a vertical rectangular shaped “window” in the upper part of the granite and was busy using a bush hammer (also known as an axe hammer), to texturize the area. “This is the oldest way to texturize rock or concrete,” he shared.

    Finklestein began working with stone when he moved to Rockland from Queens, New York, five years ago. He bought his first chisel and hammer for that trip. Once in Maine, he went to a beach one day with his new tools, started chiseling away, and loved it. Finkelstein’s sculpture is Silver Cloud granite from a quarry in Georgia. He chose this granite for its specific grain and color variations and how well he thought it would work on the form he planned to create.

    “I designed this for the auction, but now I’m thinking of it as a sketch for another one I’m planning,” he said. “Each (of the two) links is movable, separate, yet connected, made from one piece of rock. The process started with cutting away and creating a 3D cross shaped form and scooping out the materials from either side of the radius. I love doing this because I’m working with the most ancient material on Earth,” Finkelstein said. “It’s the history: Rock has been shaped and reshaped over time through each Ice Age. I think of what I’m doing as one more modification for this granite.”

    Kelley has participated in all the symposiums held in the Boothbay Region, and many of the others. She sketched out this sculpture a while back and has been wanting to do it for a long time. “I chose Picasso granite because it has blue, green, purple and gray in it,” she said. “I think it works well with this piece: Layers of ribbon are wound around the figure of a person who, hopefully, will look like she is writhing out of the fabric … I’m thinking of calling it ‘Becoming.’”

    Ucci, a decades long member of Maine Stone Workers Guild, gives stone a new, different life. Just what that new life will look like is most often created spontaneously. The base and curved stone he worked on at BRLT was begun at the Hallowell Granite Symposium this year and the third piece is an add-on for this free form abstract.

    “I didn’t finish it there because I talk a lot, I guess,” Ucci said laughing. “When this came up I thought I’d just finish it here. One of the reasons we are all here is, yeah, to make sculptures, but this symposium is purpose-driven because it’s a major fundraiser for the Land Trust. Our other symposiums are more for the public’s enjoyment. I struggled with this one the first three days here; the stone is just so heavy, so I just started chopping away at it. I guess it’s going to be as much a surprise to me as it will be to everyone else!”

    The granite suspended on July 26 had very cool “veining” (created from sheets of crystallized minerals in the rock) throughout. Ucci said it was from the quarry in Liberty.

    Skye Wood, BRLT’s point person for the symposium and auction, said BRLT worked with Maine Stone Workers Guild in 2019 for the art auction, which was hugely successful. After that, the Land Trust partnered with the sculptors to sell their work, and talked about a potential partnership, but the pandemic put a temporary end to it.

    “After the Hallowell symposium (in 2021) we talked about holding a symposium here at Oak Point Farm,” said Wood. “It’s a tremendous amount of work. It took them three days to get everything on site. All the rain we’ve had caused a few problems. The sculptors will be at the auction preview on Wednesday, Aug. 2 in the Farmhouse with all or some of the 40 artists who have been amazingly generous.”

    “We’ve had such wonderful, good times here in the Boothbay Region – first at Boothbay Railway Village, the Boothbay Common, and now here,” von Huene said. “The Land Trust is a wonderful partner. It must be terrifying to donate this landscape to a group of rock sculptors bringing all of their equipment to this beautiful spot. Yet they generously opened up this gorgeous ground for us. At the auction we are hoping to blow the roof off!”

    Visitors to the symposium got to carve square pieces of soapstone provided by the Land Trust, under a tent on the way to the sea field where all the sculpting was going on.

    The Art for Acres 2023 Maine Stone Symposium Auction will be held on Friday, Aug. 4 from 5 to 9 p.m. Proceeds will support the land conservation efforts of the Land Trust. Call BRLT at 207-633-4818 or about tickets. Full descriptions of the donated work and information about the 40 artists and artisans are on the website. Look for the Art for Acres Catalog.