|September 14, 2006|
(Above)Sculptor Shannon Cooney grinds away the surface of his block of Stanstead gray granite. The face of Baby Memphre is visible emerging from its stony womb on the right side of the piece. The sculpture of Baby Memphre captured both the jury prize and the people’s choice prize. The Granite Exhibition and Museum of Stanstead (GEMS) sponsored the sculpting contest that challenged nine sculptors to create a work that best encapsulates the theme of “The Border”. Photo by Richard Creaser
STANSTEAD, Québec — The staccato crack of compressed air chisels, the rhythmic plink of hammers and the whirring buzz of grinders filled the air of Banting Holmes Park in Stanstead, Québec, on Saturday morning. The park was abuzz with the sounds of creation as nine sculptors tested their mettle against blocks of Stanstead gray granite.
The Granite Exhibition and Museum of Stanstead (GEMS) sponsored the weeklong sculpting contest, said David Bourgon, the museum’s president. Getting granite artisans live and on public display seemed an excellent way to raise awareness of the many and varied uses for this ancient stone.“We had over 2,000 people come by this week,” said Mr. Bourgon. “More satisfying was how many granite workers stopped by to say thank you for showcasing their profession to the public.”
The contest featured nine sculptors from around Québec and included two artists from Barre — Alan Frascoia and Georges Kurjanowicz. Their task was to transform blocks of Stanstead granite into works of art that illustrate the contest’s theme of “The Border.”The artists tackled the theme with great enthusiasm. A number of sculptures remained unfinished at the end of judging on Saturday night; however, it was clear that the artistic vision often eclipsed the seven-day deadline for the contest. These unfinished works will not be lost to the annals of time. The artists will bring the stones back to their workshops there to complete their pieces, said Mr. Bourgon. Once completed, all nine sculptures will grace various parks and points throughout Stanstead.The artists tackled the theme with great relish and clearly differing points of view. Domenico Antonio Di Guglielmo’s piece “Vigilance” was among the most surreal of the creations. Designed to symbolize an alien eye, the unblinking orb seems to pulse with eldritch energy.
Sculptor Georges Kurjanowicz followed a more literal course in creating his piece that depicts a human figure thrust up against an impenetrable barrier. The sculpture was an eerie reminder of the insistent calls to erect solid walls between the two countries.Amélie Pomerleau’s sculpture depicts two crouching, watchful figures. Craved on two separate blocks of granite, the figures peer at one another across the measureless gulf of a figurative border. Hunched and tense, the watchers are in turn the watched.Mathias Péloquin was one of the sculptors who found himself short of time. His piece was an ambitious sculpture consisting of the conjoined granite links of a chain.
he contest’s winner was Shannon Cooney. Mr. Cooney’s work took a whimsical approach, focusing on a legendary character whose identity spans both sides of the border — Baby Memphre. The piece symbolizes the birth of Memphre as the antediluvian monster emerges from the egg.The base of the sculpture reinforces that image, consisting of carved granite slabs cut and polished to resemble the cracked shell of an egg. Artisan Danny Stratton created the eggshell for Mr. Cooney’s sculpture from a single slab of granite.Mr. Cooney’s sculpture captured the jury prize of $1,000 in Canadian funds and the $500 public prize.
Based on the support from the public, corporate sponsors and the sculptors themselves, Mr. Bourgon anticipates the event will become an annual fixture in Stanstead. The event is certainly in keeping with the GEMS mission of chronicling the history of granite quarrying in the Stanstead region and highlighting the applications and skills of modern stonemasons and sculptors.