Portland’s ‘eye-catching’ sculpture draws praise and intrigue
Payson Park’s lush landscape, often filled with children playing sports or on the playground, is now also home to something a little more edgy – three pink sculptures measuring 12 to 17 feet tall.
The artwork, titled “Under the Forest, Under the Sea”, was installed in June by North Bridgeton-based artist Pamela Moulton and sparked a mix of praise and intrigue.
“At first I said, ‘what’s going on there?’ but then I saw the colors,” said Jake Darling, who lives on nearby Washington Avenue. “It comes out. It’s a good look. You don’t see things like this all the time.
For many park-goers, the sculpture’s bright color and unique shape are a welcome curiosity.
“It’s a nice, progressive piece – not that I understand it,” said Westport resident Steve Williams. “I love anything different.”
For others, it may be too unusual.
“I thought they were building and had a (pink) wrap around it to cover whatever was underneath,” Deborah Fultz said. “I enjoy art, but personally I’m more into traditional art.”
The piece was funded by TEMPOArt, a Portland-based nonprofit that aims to promote the creation of temporary art projects in Maine’s largest city.
It is made of abandoned fishing gear, including old fishing nets. Moulton chose this because of what she sees as the fundamental connection between the lobster industry and Maine’s identity.
“The material speaks so much about our culture – about where we live on the waterfront,” Moulton said. “It’s about cleaning up our planet. I love that you can take this material and transform it.
For many fans of the artwork, this reuse of fishing gear is one of the main reasons they love it.
“I used to be a lobster fisherman so this design is really cool,” said Hayden O’Donnell of Portland. “It’s a good use of materials, because you’re not just throwing them in the landfill.”
For other supporters, the sense of community brought by the sculptures is a point of admiration.
“It’s very catchy, it’s great. I walk here almost every day,” said Elizabeth Anderson, who lives nearby on Wellwood Road. “I love it. I see families and kids exploring it, especially when there are baseball games. I would love to have sculptures all over the park.
This sense of community was central to Moulton’s vision of the play. Throughout the project, she worked with community members and listened to their ideas. As the work took shape, the name changed from “Every Tree Tells a Story” to its current title.
“I had so many people helping me on the project…so many people had so many different ideas, and I just took all of those ideas into my own,” Moulton said. “When you create a really specific title, you really limit people’s imaginations.”
The unique nature of the sculpture has led many park-goers to stop and analyze the meaning of the work. Interpretations range from the artwork being a commentary on the human condition to being representative of the impact of COVID-19 on Portland.
“The fishing net is usually made of plastic rope, it is made of trash and plastic. (The piece) almost looks like brain neurons or something, but it’s broken,” said Nate Weare of Portland. “I feel like the artist was trying to show how toxic waste and plastic are to life.”
Moulton encourages these kinds of analyzes of his work.
“It’s really wonderful when the audience has their own opinion of what (the sculpture) is,” Moulton said. “We all learn together.”
The installation will remain in the park next year. After that, Moulton and TEMPOArt will be able to reconnect with the city for another year. In this short time, Moulton hopes to host several community-wide events to encourage people to connect with both the sculpture and the park itself.
“When I pitched the piece, I promised them that I would create a community gathering space for the city,” Moulton said. “Every time I go (to Payson) I see children hugging the sculpture. It’s amazing that people hug them, there’s so much interaction.
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