Sculpture Retrospective 2020: Don Justin Meserve

Fri, 06/12/2020 - 9:15am

Studio 53 is proud to present “Don Justin Meserve: Sculpture Retrospective 2020,” an exhibition of over 40 works which reveals not only Don’s mastery of stone but also his prolific use of wood, metal, and mixed media. The complete exhibition runs through June and again through September, with select works remaining on display during July and August.

Sculptor Don Justin Meserve (1938-2010) explored narrative and abstract themes over the course of his professional career which spanned four decades. He is best known for “Cleat,” a monumental work in granite commissioned for the waterfront of Winter Harbor and created during the first Schoodic International Sculpture Symposium in 2007. “Cleat” is featured on the Maine Sculpture Trail which runs through coastal villages from Bucksport to Calais.

In 2013 his estate donated the Meserve Collection of works in stone to the Schoodic International Sculpture Symposium, which in partnership with Maine Stone Workers Guild, has raised significant funds for art education. A portion of the sales from this exhibition, the gallery’s sculpture garden, and pieces on the Boothbay Sculpture Trail will support training classes and internships.

Outside the gallery entrance stands “Peary-Henson,” an imposing granite portrait merging the faces of two arctic explorers who first reached the North Pole: Admiral Robert Peary and Matthew Henson, the party’s African American navigator. Don’s interest in polar themes was piqued by U. S. Army tours of duty in Greenland during the Cold War. One of his favorite venues in Maine was the Peary-McMillan Arctic Museum on the campus of Bowdoin College, Perry’s alma mater in Brunswick.

Works on display inside the gallery represent Don’s favorite themes: animated tools, maritime lore, and allegorical biblical references. An early foray into spirited industrial forms is his award-winning “Rose Clippers” crafted in aluminum when he studied design at the University of Bridgeport. Closed it’s a tool-open, a creature. Don’s facility with visual punning is evident in “Minotaur,” which depending on one’s vantage point, is either an ancient helmet or the famous bull of legend. On first glance “Blade” seems to be just that but look again and it becomes a primitive creature with menacing jaw.

Less familiar is Don’s celebrated “Stations of the Cross,” a set of devotional bas reliefs he cast in pewter in the 1980’s while working in New York. Winner of the prestigious IFRAA award for devotional art, “Stations” presents his uniquely subjective interpretation of Christ’s passion. The work was displayed at Trinity Church Wall Street and the Museum of Biblical art before it was acquired for the Episcopal Cathedral Church of St. Luke in Portland Maine. Here it is represented by a framed poster which is available as a print.

All of Don’s sculpture reflects a hands-on approach which is informed by his varied work experiences. In the 1960’s he practiced industrial design and studied Danish craft techniques at architectural offices in Copenhagen. At Bernadotte and Bjorn, Don designed architectural details, furniture, glassware, jewelry and other projects. While a professor at Rhode Island School of Design he was instrumental in establishing a graduate program in furniture design.

Studio 53’s owners Terry Seaman and Heidi Seidelhuber met Don Meserve in the late 1960’s at RISD. Studio 53 is honored to celebrate Don’s legacy now, 50 years later.

Studio 53 is in Boothbay Harbor at 53 Townsend Ave. COVID-19 safety precautions are in effect at the gallery. All visitors must wear masks, and only five may be in the gallery at one time. Hours are noon to 5 p.m. daily.