Sunday, March 11, 2012

Defunct and Demolished

Support foundation under old factory
Lubec, Maine
©Shanna Wheelock, 2012

Factory left to deteriorate
Lubec, Maine
©Shanna Wheelock, 2012

Interior of abandoned factory
Lubec, Maine
©Shanna Wheelock, 2012

Sculpture in progress
©Shanna Wheelock, 2012

Restoring the old McCurdy Smokehouses is a goal of Lubec Landmarks.
©Shanna Wheelock, 2012

Lubec Landmarks, downtown Lubec.
This building was once Mullholland Market (a meat market?)
My show opens here June 2, 2012- Mark your calendar!
©Shanna Wheelock, 2012

Greenware stacking up

Lubec is a different place than it was a hundred years ago, or even twelve years ago, for that matter. Places and people change, that's a given. But I am still having a hard time wrapping my head around just how much things have changed here.

Chris and I moved to Lubec in 2001 less than two weeks before the September 11 attacks. We arrived to what appeared to be a ghost town. There were "tales" of a once bustling hub. One of the last factories was closing and an overwhelming sense of defeat rolled in like an early morning fog.

At one time or another, approximately thirty factories were in operation in this town, along with a deluxe resort and lead and copper mines. There are a few remnants left of the old canning, cat food, and smokehouse factories, but for the most part, the buildings were razed, succumbed to fire, or disappeared into the ocean. Occasionally, a building is bought and remodeled for a new purpose.

Since I can remember, I have had an empathy for buildings. Maybe it is in part because I am an artist and architecture is one component, but it seems more than that. Buildings have personalities, and maybe in some sense, take on the energy of those who designed and built them. The wood or other material dredged or cut from the earth has its own energy as well, and the inhabitants all leave their mark at one time or another. I feel a sadness for a building that has been left to fend off the elements with no regard to its well being, to just deteriorate under the weight of snow or drift off with the currents without so much as an apology or memorial.

I still remember the sadness I felt coming home from school one day to see the old barn where I once lived being torn down. There were so many memories in that barn - jumping from the loft into a pile of hay, riding my bike back and forth across the boards, waiting for the batch of root beer to age, being bucked out of the truck by the goat, or playing with our rabbits Ketchup and Margaret who lived in the first stall. It was huge old barn with lots of lower level exploring where some transient had made a home; pots and pans strewn about a fire pit, a single mattress and blanket, dirt-infused pile of clothing.

Buildings house years of memories and people. The old factories, employing up to four hundred people at one time in just one facility, were deemed no longer profitable or safe thus demolished. I look at old photos of the enormous entities and still have a hard time believing that they existed. Once-powerful, sturdy, lucrative structures succumbing to wrecking balls, tides, and flames.

My current sculptural focus is inspired by the old factories of this town. I look back over the last couple years of my art practice and see how the creative road has led to this point. With a background in pottery and weaving which is a steady in repetition and multiples, I gravitated toward the idea of machines (in their many interpretations) with rows of grenades, to floors of hand-sculpted sewing machines. The difference now is that I am narrowing in on the emotions and connections with something that is a bit "closer to home".

I feel sort of like a sculptural Warhol of modern times.

I have been thinking about this project since last October. When I was asked to do a show at Lubec Landmarks for June 2012, I thought what a perfect opportunity to showcase a piece about the local history. Landmarks' main mission is to preserve Lubec's history through restoration of the old McCurdy Smokehouse, a cluster of cedar-shingled buildings outcropping the narrows. So far, one of the buildings has been restored and houses a museum. Sales from the Landmarks art exhibits help to fund the restoration.

The sculpture that I have in mind is a daunting task, but a challenge always seems to make things a bit more interesting. I have spent months researching, honing in on the main ideas, and sketching. Lots of folks have offered up bits of interesting facts.

There are still many unanswered "how-to's" as far as the physical part goes. I finally jumped in yesterday with the clay construction. I will figure out the rest of the details as the piece progresses. I have approximately 240 clay shingles to construct. Yikes. I am currently accepting applications for muscle-bound toters and installers!

I estimate that the finished (and might I add, fragile) sculpture will weigh somewhere in the neighborhood of 120-150 lbs when done. I hope that I am overestimating: I fear not.

All the while, tings are humming along in the pottery cave. Production is in full force and it seems that there is never enough time to accomplish all the tasks on my list. Lubec Arts Alive is meeting this week to plan for the summer event, and school teaching will be a bit more busy with grades closing on Friday.

Chris is finding that his calendar is getting quite full as well. He has three poetry-reading engagements for April. We are both now keeping matching calendars close at hand to be sure to not double book ourselves or the one car that we share.

Clocks have sprung forward this weekend. Looking at the time gets me a bit anxious thinking that I have lost an hour of work already today. I never fully understand why we have to do this whole clock change thing. Why not just go with our usual earth/body rhythms and just let things be as they are? The full moon this past week was enough to throw off the physiological sleep pattern - now the change in alarm setting for earlier than usual work prep. I think it might be a walking-zombie kind of existence for a few days after today. I hope you all fare better than I expect to through the change.

1 comment:

eileenoliver52 said...

This truly resonates with me... I have always felt buildings have a personality. Some are warm and inviting, though people often look at me like I'm a little crazy when I say buildings talk to me. Some almost feel malevolent. The house I lived in, in Lubec felt like it greeted my family with a warm, grandmotherly hug. It had sat vacant for several years and when we arrived we woke her up and she welcomed us and kept us safe from the wind and snow. Since we left (and I would have taken that house with me if I could have) it has sat vacant again. The few times I have been back I have stopped and walked around it and felt such sadness to see it as it is. Some of the local people say it's haunted. I never felt a moment of anything but warmth & love from that house, now so close to the end of it's life... I think of it as being asleep...quietly waiting for the end... and hope that another family wakes her up again to feel that giant hug.