Steve Lindsay talks about his process and his latest work for the Maine Center for Creativity

Chainsaws and ancient chisels are this sculptor’s favorite things to play with

Thu, 10/30/2014 - 4:30pm

    ST. GEORGE — Not everyone can take one glance at a giant log and “see” it as a life-size nude figure, but that’s a sculptor’s job. And Steve Lindsay is getting pretty good at knowing what a giant piece of wood is going to look like once he’s taken his chainsaw to it.

    Lindsay, who lives in St. George, often scours wood lots owned by the logging industry for unusual-shaped logs, particularly ones that have been rejected by saw mills.

    “I look for nice big pieces of white pine,” he said. “White pine is a beautiful wood, very plain and simple.”

    Wood is his favorite medium to work with, followed by stone and granite. For the most part, his work is representational, and ranges from portraits to gargoyles, and from small delicate carvings to the large life-sized figures. He also makes woodcut prints.

    “Both mediums use reductive carving, where I start with something big and I carve away until you get what I want,” he said. “I can usually see what it’s going to be when I start, but then, I usually have to make adjustments and improvise.”

    When the material presents him with an obstacle, that’s usually when the creative process leads to something he didn’t anticipate.

    “When I carve, I sometimes see things I hadn’t thought of, like the shape of the clothes or the posture, that I can accentuate,” he said. “So, it’s not a case of having a model I’m making a reproduction of, I’m discovering things as I go. That’s what makes it exciting.”

    For example, recently while he was carving a fish out of stone, he used a certain tool that left a particular texture on the piece that he discovered he liked so much that he made the entire piece with that texture.

    “I didn’t know where I was trying to go with that, but now I see it was a good idea,” he said. He uses carving tools that haven’t changed in centuries, but he particularly loves the way a chainsaw works.

    “It’s like a lot of little chisels attached together,” he said.

    Lindsay has an extensive background in sculpting. In 1971, he graduated from Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., and then moved to New York City, where he worked as an apprentice cabinetmaker at the Pardini-Bertoli Fine Furniture Company.

    In 1974, he moved to Canada, where he spent the next two years studying wood sculpture with Pierre Bourgault and Herman Raby at the École de Sculpture sur Bois in St. Jean-Port Joli, Quebec.

    In 1976, he moved back to the states, eventually settling in the town of St. George. There, he set up a studio, and began showing his sculpture around the Northeast.

    As far as recent work, he’s just finished making two awards entirely out of natural materials for the Maine Center for Creativity.  The biennial award recognizes creative collaboration in the sciences, arts and industry in Maine. He made the first prototype of the award for them in 2012 and has constructed two more for the 2014 recipients, actor Patrick Dempsey and The Jackson Laboratory.

    The concept of collaboration was inherent in his design.

    “We chose a design based on the logo of the Maine Center for Creativity—two freely drawn concentric circles,” he said. “The design is a three-dimensional sculptural representation of that logo...made from different materials working together: a large black walnut ring, a smaller white granite ring on a bronze rod, and a slate base. The black walnut came from a tree that grew in Winthrop, the white granite is from Jay, and the slate was quarried in Monson. The bronze rod came from a local marine supply store, as it is a material used by boat builders. When seen from directly ahead, the award reproduces the logo; from other vantage points, it is a dynamic three dimensional object.”

    The awards will be given away in a Gala ceremony on Nov. 15 in Portland. For more information on Lindsay’s work visit:

    Kay Stephens can be reached at