Kingdom of sculpture in Warren woods

By Rufus Foshee | Mar 04, 2010
Photo by: Joan Foshee This gate to Jay Sawyer's kingdom in the Warren woods is one of his sculptures.
It was at the Farnsworth Art Museum during the glass show some time ago that Jay Sawyer and I first struck up a conversation. I have wanted to see his "kingdom" ever since, but wanted to see it in a bleak time, when there was as little as possible to distract from his work. Feb. 18, a sunny, dry day was just right.

Not having seen his work before, I turned into Sawyer's Route 90 entrance and was soon stopped by one of his works that serves as a swinging gate to his kingdom in the Warren woods, which was not only a challenging beginning but also delivered a serious message about the man and his work.

This experience differed from most because one is going into a space in the woods that serves both as a display space and a studio. It is a place where one is able to perceive an organic whole, both the sculptor and the visitor. One cannot have gone through this tour with Sawyer and come out the same on the other side.

There is great variance in Sawyer's products. There is the large iron gate and there is a small sculpture no more than 20 inches.

What Sawyer has not yet realized is that he is not going to be able to clean up his kingdom and tie it up all nice in a package with a pretty ribbon. He is a creator, a re-creator, a composer of objects, and the work will have to go on forever. He said he is trying to be an artist. Eventually, he will come to the reality that it is always a process -- trying.

Look back: Jackson Pollock committed suicide at 44, Franz Kline drank himself to death at 52, Mark Rothko slit his wrists at 67, Louise Nevelson took 88 years to drink herself into oblivion, for beginners. Only Rothko and Nevelson lived to witness their fame as well as their riches.

And try, Sawyer has. He has not yet developed a technique that allows him to leave his indelible imprint upon each work so that those who study it might easily say, "Oh, that could only be a Sawyer." That will take time and vision.

Sawyer, like Union's Brian White, is a self-taught artist. I think I recall Sawyer saying that unlike White, who had always known he was an artist, Sawyer is only now trying to be one. I reminded him of the first attempts White made 20 or more years ago that were not successful and that bore no relationship to the advanced work he has been doing for years.

Eventually Sawyer will come to the realization that an artist never is, he is always becoming. If this were not so, why would artists, both male and female, go on trying to advance in old age, as the creative batteries diminish? For example, as she continued trying to reach l00, Georgia O'Keeffe turned to doing pots under the tutelage of her longtime protege -- she held out to 98.

Then some, Pablo Picasso for example, just go on doing poor work and the public goes on buying it, believing, or wanting to believe, that a poor Picasso is better than anything else.

As one native of Camden likes to say, "Whatever floats your boat."

Looking at the pile of scrap that Sawyer refers to as his palette, it might be fascinating if one morning he just got up, forgot about the past for a week and tried to see what would come from reconfiguring that pile into new images.

Rufus Foshee lives in Camden.






















 

If you appreciated reading this news story and want to support local journalism, consider subscribing today.
Call (207) 594-4401 or join online at knox.villagesoup.com/join.
Donate directly to keeping quality journalism alive at knox.villagesoup.com/donate.
Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.