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Outdoor exhibit at Starlight Lodge features Duvall's sculptures

By Susan Mustapich | Oct 05, 2020
Courtesy of: Starlight Lodge The Starlight Lodge on Route 1 in Rockport is hosting an outdoor exhibit featuring the sculptures of artist Charles Duvall.

ROCKPORT — A new outdoor exhibit at Starlight Lodge on Route 1 in Rockport features the sculptures of artist Charles Duvall.

The exhibit showcases Duvall's Celestial Trees-Series I, a five-piece collection in painted metal, rock and stenciled poetry, written by the artist. It is open to the public during daylight hours and no reservations are needed.

The pieces celebrate color, geometry and postmodern interpretations of light and dimension, with forceful primitive elements including iron bars and Maine river basin rocks, according to the exhibit brochure.

Duvall was putting final touches in place Oct.3, including laying the stencils for the poetry and painting the poems on Music of the Spheres.

"This piece is different than the others," he said. "It’s painted differently. I always thought of this as a Maine pine.

The colors capture generally what you see when you look at pines, in the abstract, he said. In general, the piece has evolved from creating a joint – so that’s a connection – so I repeated the connection and it created patterns. The joints got more complex. I added rods, and then I added circles. Then I added the stones on the struts because they are part of the landscape. You can see the shape relates to branching."

His metal sculptures incorporate flexibility, with elements like tree branches and angel wings that move with the wind.

Starlight Lodge owner Debbie Orloff was introduced to Duvall several years ago, when Barnes Custom Window Treatments was making awnings for the front office. There was no central place on the lawn for guests to gather and she asked if the company could make a stand-alone structure for that purpose. They referred her to Duvall, an artist who has lived in Maine for 30 years and has a studio in Rockport.

Duval made the eye-catching Stargazer Pavilion on the front lawn of Starlight Lodge, an open air structure that provides shade for seating and glimpses of the sky.

"My pieces relate to the landscape anyway," Duvall said. "I’ve always worked on them outside. I’ve always thought of them that way. You can look through the circles. I’ve always thought of them as windows."

Duvall said the circles came as a result of a workshop on making fabric structures with young children. "They would cut holes in the fabric. I've been doing it ever since," he said.

The fabric sculpture also incorporates elements that represent aspects of Orloff's personal journey at the time, with new beginnings in business and in her life. One element is a red ship's rope that represents a phoenix rising from the ashes, relating to resurrecting the hotel.

The two talked about other ideas. Orloff has a background in supporting the arts and theater, and is a former member of the New Hampshire Board of Art. She convinced Duvall to paint a number of metal sculptures he had previously made, which were bare rust-colored metal. This led him to complete the sculptures, now on exhibit, as he originally intended, by stenciling on them short poems he had written.

"In a year of COVID, when everyone is worried and tired and concerned – working on this project was food for the soul and gave us something to be happy about," Orloff said.

While Duvall began making metal sculptures around five years ago, he has been working with fabric structures for a long time.

Stargazer Pavilion is taken down each year before the snow falls and put up again in the spring. Most of the fabric sculptures are engineered to withstand wind, but not snow load.

The exception is his sculpture at the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland, which is a permanent, four-season sculpture. It is made of Teflon fabric and composed of 600 pieces. Duvall worked on this for eight years, and it was the first time he created anything this complex and with curves.

"I learned how to do it on that piece," he said. This sculpture was funded by museum Board of Directors member Mazie Cox.  Since it was created, he has done another 100 pieces.

Duvall is currently involved in a partnership working on a thousand feet of interior wall space in the Delta Airlines terminal of the new Salt Lake City airport. He’s not the artist, he said but did all the engineering and programmed machines to make the artwork.

Another of his works is a centerpiece for Google’s campus in Sunnyvale, Calif. "It’s like a big, huge trellis, made up of 600 small fabric structures, like leaves on a tree," he said. The other half of his work is in the Cayman Islands, where he has about 100 pieces.

The sculpture exhibition at Starlight Lodge achieves a concept Orloff had when she purchased the 1950s-style mom and pop motel, in need of renovation, five years ago. The concept, "yesteryear with a modern twist" meant upgrading the property to give it a boutique hotel/inn feel, she said.

She wanted to offer an affordable guest experience,  with rooms and bathrooms renovated and upgraded with high quality materials and comforts, that exceed expectations for the price, which begins at $99 per night.

Since that time, she has purchased and renovated the Starlight Lodge Cape Cod and Starlight Lodge North Conway. The Rockport property renovations include a new roof, new heated swimming pool out front and new connection to the sewer system.

Her seasonal outdoor decoration began with loads of pumpkins, which Orloff said was simply "Yankee ingenuity until we could do landscaping." This has blossomed into an attractive garden and paths, which highlights the Stargazer Pavilion as a centerpiece. In June, the garden was expanded with plantings and paths, and is the setting for the exhibit.

Giving back what she can to the communities is also part of Orloff's plan, and has included contributions for rebuilding the steeple at the Chestnut Street Baptist Church, the church she attends when in Maine, and Knox County Homeless Coalition. "We don’t make a lot of money, but try to do things locally that help," she said.

She said her collaboration with Duvall began as an accident and serendipity, and over time she has grown to value him and his family. Early on, she asked if she could borrow the metal sculpture Starburst, as her Route 1 location would provides visibility. She also asked if he would paint it red. Later on she acquired the sculpture, which features one unwelded piece of metal, bent in angles. It is based on a work the artist submitted to an international jury, leading to a prize appearance and lecture at the Louvre Museum in Paris in 2016.

Duvall sees the metal sculptures as now complete. He writes that they "became an exploration of color as a way to redefine front and back, inside and angle has three sides: the inside and two outsides. These illuminate the sculpture in the surrounding environment."

As a result, "they came alive...actually the sculptures are now happy."

Duvall puts final touches on Music of the Spheres, one of the sculptures exhibited at the Starlight Lodge on Route 1 in Rockport. (Photo by: Susan Mustapich)
Music of the Spheres, by artist Charles Duvall incorporates colors, shapes, materials and movement the artist sees in Maine's environment. (Courtesy of: Starlight Lodge)
Charles Duval Celestial Tree No. 1 is surrounded by fall colors in the garden at Starlight Lodge on Route 1 in Rockport. (Photo by: Susan Mustapich)
Stargazer Pavilion, on the grounds of Starlight Lodge in Rockport, is an eye-catching tensioned fabric sculpture by Charles Duval, designed to serve as a gathering place for guests (Courtesy of: Starlight Lodge)
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