Jesse Salisbury '95

 

rock around the clock

%1034%right%Jesse Salisbury '95 loves being a rock star.

A sculptor who works primarily with granite and basalt, Salisbury, 34, is one of Maine's emerging artists. His massive sculptures are turning up in private collections and public displays across Maine, and lately he has made his name in the international sculpture community as well.

This summer he plans to be the host for the Schoodic International Sculpture Symposium in the Schoodic section of Acadia National Park, near his home in Steuben. Salisbury plans to convene eight sculptors from around the world and to create a series of sculptures from Maine rock.

Salisbury's immersion into sculpture, at age 11, started in wood, a material he returned to at Colby at the urging of Professor Harriett Matthews (art).

"I remember my first semester in beginning sculpture I brought a block of pink granite from Down East Maine and started carving it, even though it didn't fit into the assignment," he said. "A couple of assignments went by and I was still picking away at this block of granite. I was a stubborn student, and I worked on it all semester. My second year in sculpture, Harriett managed to convince me to carve wood."

Matthews taught Salisbury technique and execution, which he has been able to translate into his large granite and basalt pieces, which sometimes tower dozens of feet above the earth.
"Splitting and reassembling [the rock] are his signatures," said June LaCombe, a sculpture curator and art dealer from Pownal, who has championed Salisbury's work for several years. "By fracturing the pieces, he seems to be giving us a glimpse of their inner nature. He thinks on a huge scale, and he carries it off. He is truly unique. He starts with a giant block often, then splits it and carves it, and then reconstructs it. He's following geological and glacial patterns in the rock."

Salisbury, who lives on a 60-acre spread of trees and rocks on the Maine coast, is heavily influenced by Japanese carving technique.

Before enrolling at Colby in 1991, he worked as a pottery apprentice to a Bizen potter in Japan. He knew then he wanted to be an artist, and he came to Colby to learn about the larger world.

"I went to Colby because I wanted to study a variety of things. I thought that after college I would become a professional artist, and Colby would be a good place to acquire a variety of skills needed for a life as an artist," he said.

Salisbury graduated with a major in East Asian studies and minors in art and Chinese. He studied sculpture every semester at Colby, and he also spent six months at Nanjing University in China, studying Chinese. Today he travels regularly to Japan for sculpture symposia, and he dreams of ways to make sculpture in China.

For now, though, he is concentrating on further establishing himself in Maine. He helped organize an international sculpture symposium at Round Top Center for the Arts in Damariscotta during the summer of 2004, and he is using that experience as a springboard for his Schoodic symposium in 2007.

He's also spearheading an effort to raise $200,000 to stage the symposium, and has recruited Sharon Corwin, Carolyn Muzzy Director and Curator of the Colby College Museum of Art, to serve as a judge for selecting artists to participate.

His vision involves conducting the symposium regularly, which he hopes will result in a vast collection of public art pieces around Maine, all made from Maine rock.

In a slightly ironic twist, one of Salisbury's backers in the Schoodic project is Don Harward, the former president of Bates College, and Harward's wife, Ann. The Harwards are helping Salisbury with his fund-raising efforts and advising him on the Schoodic project.

"Don and Ann bought one of my sculptures in 2002. When he bought the sculpture, he shook my hand and looked at me and said, 'Let's not tell anyone you went to Colby.'"

,Bob Keyes