August 17, 2013

Local artist turns Scarborough dump into art studio

By Bob Keyes bkeyes@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

SCARBOROUGH – Andy Rosen is right where he should be: Under the sign that says "Artist," which is next to "Grass & Leaves," "Demo Wood" and "Brush & Woody Vegetation."

click image to enlarge

Local artist Andy Rosen is completing an artist-in-residency at the Scarborough Recycling Center. He has created a 7-foot-tall black bear out of found materials at the dump. Rosen is holding one of the wooden "rocks" he made for the exhibit.

John Ewing / Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Rosen, a 38-year-old artist from South Portland, has spent much of his summer as an artist in residence at the Community Recycling Center. He used materials from the transfer station to construct a 7-foot black bear, which sits in the corner near the exit.

"It's a little bit different," he admitted. "It's not every day that you see a piece of art at the transfer station. But that's sort of the point of this project."

On the other hand, seeing a bear at the dump is not unusual in Maine.

The bear sculpture is part of the "Scavenger" project, which is co-sponsored by Space Gallery in Portland. The idea is to get artwork shown in unconventional places, in part to debunk the notion that art is pretentious and unapproachable, said Nat May, executive director of Space.

"There's nothing pretentious about the dump," May said. "We feel that if we can make the process of making art more public, we have a better chance to engage people. It's a real win to be able to approach people who are not part of the obvious art audience and get them interested in the process."

Rosen named the bear "David" as a tribute to the underdog in the biblical David and Goliath story. His bear is meant to be seen as fighting the elements, real or imagined.

The artist worked on site at the recycling center for a solid month, gathering mostly wood and shingles. He sawed, cut, shaped and assembled David during some of the hottest days of summer.

It stands on a pedestal of pallets, surrounded by mulch. The bear has a skyward gaze, a rock in his paw. His coat is made of pieces of shingles and tar paper.

David is scheduled to be on view at the recycling center through Labor Day weekend, though that end date may be extended. Rosen hopes to place it in a public museum or gallery after it leaves Scarborough. Better yet, he hopes to sell it.

In his work, Rosen explores the interaction between animals and the environment. "Scavenger" fits in with that theme and the larger arc of his work.

Rosen teaches at the University of New England and Southern Maine Community College. He is accustomed to working with animals as part of his art activities. He creates all kinds of mammals in odd situations, such as a rabbit riding a bike or a sperm whale swimming with a load of bricks on its back.

Rosen shares an artistic lineage with the late Bernard Langlais, a Maine artist best-known for making huge sculptures of animals out of salvaged wood and whose pieces are on view across Maine.

Rosen was very public with his process at the recycling center. He set up his shop under a big blue tent, and worked 10-hour days. People stopped and talked all the time, he said.

"It just seemed more accessible for whatever reason," he said. "I don't find myself or my artwork inaccessible, but people feel more comfortable starting up a conversation about materials or telling me about an artist they know out here at a place like this."

One man offered to sharpen Rosen's tools for free. Another brought him water. Many offered advice.

"People came up to me as it started to take shape and very willingly offered their opinion," Rosen said, laughing. "I got it 85 percent shingled, and some guy said, 'You shouldn't have done that.' I loved that feedback, and I loved that he felt comfortable giving it."

Rosen said the workers at the recycling center were helpful and kind. They, too, were curious about the project.

"A lot of people want to know what it is," said Tim Watts, site foreman. (What it is, he tells them, is a bear.) "It's definitely a curiosity, and it definitely has people talking."

Watts' opinion?

"I like it. I think Andy did a good job. He's a nice guy, too. He was fun to work with."

Rosen enjoyed making artwork in public. He liked the interaction, the questions, the feedback.

"I'm definitely not used to being gawked at," Rosen said. "But I'm being gawked at in a good way."

Bob Keyes can be reached at 791-6457 or:

bkeyes@pressherald.com

Twitter: pphbkeyes 

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