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Stone Sculpture at Bar Harbor
Stone Sculpture at Bar Harbor, Maine

We arrived just before dinner at our hotel in Bar Harbor, Maine and were immediately overwhelmed by the cool air full of the fragrance of sea and kelp. It was a perfect day and a perfect evening, sitting outside with our dinner overlooking the bay as the light dimmed. We took a walk along the water, probably one of the most popular places to walk in all of Maine, and we were amazed to find a stone sculpture, about a foot high, built among the rocks just above the tidal zone. Then we noticed that there were many of these stone towers, some just 5-6 inches high but most were much higher consisting of many, perfectly balanced stones. We thought at first that this is what people did who walked here but it didn’t take long to discover that these were the works of a master. It takes a lot of skill to balance even one stone on top of another, and the stones have to be just the right shape and placed exactly in the right spot. Most of the towers had a curve or a lilt to them and some looked very anthropomorphic.

Stone Sculpture at Bar Harbor
Stone Sculpture at Bar Harbor, Maine

Many were made like an arch, or a Roman aqueduct, with a middle piece holding the curve together. Some had a precarious asymmetry and we wondered if they had been constructed using supports. At first I thought this was a wonderful example of the creative human instinct at work, and that these sculptures were the result of many hands and many minds.  But I soon became convinced that it was the work of one person.  The real mystery is that we never saw this artist at work although there were new sculptures every day. We never did understand when all of these creative bursts of engineering took place.

Stone Sculpture at Bar Harbor, Maine
Stone Sculpture at Bar Harbor, Maine

One morning we observed a man walking among the sculptures kicking them over as he talked on his cell phone. We thought it a terrible thing to do and asked him why he was destroying them. He was quite defensive and angry, and he shouted “This is not nature! I am a naturalist and I don’t like these, they are not nature!” We said that we were naturalists as well but we did like them. He said he was upset that someone had taken rocks from lower down by the water and had carried them up about 20 feet. “What if all the rocks were carried around on the beach, what then?” he asked angrily. We pointed out that the sea would reclaim the rocks eventually, but he burst out that it would take months.

Tower ~ A Paper Sculpture by Anita Wolfenden

Fortunately, we never saw the angry man again, and there continued to be new stone towers every morning along the beach. They were a joy to behold and the stones were so beautiful just by themselves, all shades of grey, smooth or mottled, with white lines in them or shiny glints. Most of them were native granite but some were brought in from far away by glaciers about 400,000 years ago. Some art is made to last and some is not. Those stone sculptures were made to come and go with the tide, transient and beautiful in their short lived perfection.

To the left is a sample of my own work that is reminiscent of one of those fascinating, stone sculptures. This is a tower and just one of the many sculptures I have made out of paper.

See more of Anita’s finely crafted work at her website.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Well, the mystery of the création of these beautiful sculptures is great, but I think I have resolved it: Anita became so inspired by the landscape that the artist in her made her go up in the night to creative them! Ssssshhh, nobody should know!

  2. What a great story, Anita, with the photos. Fascinating. I can make a ‘duck’ which is three stones balanced so I know the skill it must take to do such large balancing acts. Wonderful. Hilarious about the ‘Naturalist’ and his worry that it might take months to move the rocks back out to sea. Months are nothing to a rock! Nice to put your paper tower in to resonate with the stones.

  3. Thanks so much for sharing your heart with us. Beautiful essay and matched with keen observation. I, too, love the Maine coast.
    All is well.

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