City Council to consider accepting 14-foot-tall sculpture as public art

On Monday night, the Portland City Council will decide whether or not to accept a granite sculpture titled “Tidal Moon.” Mary Louise and William Hamill are offering the artwork in donation, and it was crafted by Jesse Salisbury, a Steuben sculptor well-known in part for his founding of the International Sculpture Symposium held in Schoodic.

Tidal Moon (photo courtesy city of Portland)

Here’s how a City Hall announcement Friday described the piece:

‘Tidal Moon’ stands fourteen feet tall and is made from split Maine granite reassembled and pinned with stainless steel. The use of Maine granite is intended to represent the bedrock in a constantly changing world. Since the Ice Age, granite boulders have been moved by glaciers and left is areas throughout Maine. ‘Tidal Moon’ sits on a massive base and has a presence of grandeur. The proposed location for the sculpture is just to the left of the walkway outside the baggage claim doors and near the waiting parking lot. Because of its massive size, the sculpture will be visible both from the drive along the roadway as well as the walkway to the parking garage. ‘Tidal Moon’ is comprised of two large split granite columns, which elevate a granite sphere reminiscent of a jewel in a pronged setting.

If the council accepts the piece, it would become the 29th piece in the city’s art collection, and it would be placed at the Portland International Jetport. A previous art donation by the Hammills, a series of metal animal sculptures, was also installed on the airport grounds.

"Our Lady of Victories" as seen in 1902 (Maine Historical Society photo)

The addition of new public artworks to the city’s collection isn’t always a smooth process. The City Council and Public Arts Committee disagreed over whether the city should accept a statue of a family on its way to a baseball game from Portland Sea Dogs owner Daniel Burke. Last fall, the city dug up the Boothby Square landscape sculpture “Tracing the Fore” in response to residents’ and business owners’ complaints that it was ugly and dangerous, just five years after paying $135,000 for it.

In contrast, other statues in the public art collection are postcard material — venerable Portland landmarks. The towering 1891 sculpture “Our Lady of Victories,” a Civil War memorial, is synonymous with Monument Square, and the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Monument on the corner of Congress and State streets is one of the best-known statues in Maine.

Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.