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Press Contact: Susan Benson, (207) 287-4909
Maine's Gateway Sculpture Undergoes Overdue Facelift
(September 18, 2000) AUGUSTA, Maine -- The dramatic sculpture in the quiet park that greets travellers on Route 1 crossing from Portsmouth into Kittery will be the site of scaffolding, walnut shell blasting, and conservators working with brushes, scalpels, and dental tools beginning Monday, September 18, 2000.
This sculpture, the Maine Sailors and Soldiers Memorial, is one of Maine's most significant outdoor sculptures and for the next seven days, will be the focus of an intensive conservation project. Created by Boston-area sculptor Bashka Paeff in 1925, the sculpture, a bronze bas relief incorporating the powerful, central figure of a woman protecting a child, was commissioned by the State of Maine during Governor Percival Baxter's administration as a memorial to Maine's World War I sailors and soldiers. Sited conspicuously at the gateway to Maine at the time, the sculpture symbolizes the high honor paid by the state to its sailors and soldiers.
"This sculpture is one of Maine's jewels," says Department of Conservation's Bureau of Parks and Lands Director Tom Morrison, whose agency manages John Paul Jones Memorial Park in which the sculpture is located. "You can't help but be drawn in by the sculpture's dramatic imagery. It made a powerful statement about war during its time, and continues to do so now. This wonderful work of art is certainly deserving of the grant funds the state has received to conserve it."
Since its installation in 1926, the bronze bas relief sculpture has seen significant deterioration, and shows evidence of corrosion, patina loss, and discoloration. During the conservation project, conservators, led by nationally-recognized Maine conservator Ronald Harvey, will clean the sculpture's surface, remove corrosion, restore the piece’s original bronze color, and apply a protective surface coating. In October, Syphers Monument Company will continue work on the sculpture's site by restoring and repairing the granite plaza, sitting area, and frame surrounding the sculpture.
"This striking sculpture is very significant from an artistic point of view because it is one of the finest works by Bashka Paeff, a woman who worked as a sculptor in the Boston area for more than 50 years," states Bureau of Parks and Lands Historic Site Specialist Sheila McDonald. McDonald remarks that the sculpture holds significance historically and politically.
Paeff received a commission from the state to create the sculpture in 1924, when Percival Baxter was governor. In 1925, she contacted Maine's new governor, Ralph Brewster, so that he could review the work in progress and prepare for its installation. Brewster rejected the sculpture and stopped the work on it, describing the sculpture as inappropriately pacifist for a memorial to the deeds of Maine men.
Governor Brewster's long-simmering political battles with former Governor Baxter undoubtedly fanned the flames of the controversy, which was played out in newspaper headlines of the time. Although the sculpture was nearly complete when Brewster intervened, Paeff was able to make some minor changes to the sculpture's imagery and satisfy both Baxter and Brewster.
Major grant funding for the project has been received from a national program, "Save Outdoor Sculpture!" which is a joint project of Heritage Preservation and the Smithsonian's National Museum of American Art. Additional funds and support have been received from the Davis Family Foundation, Rosamond Thaxter Foundation, New Century Preservation Grant Program, Bureau of Parks and Lands/Maine Department of Conservation, and the Kittery Foreside Committee.
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