His birth certificate says otherwise, but David McLaughlin is a Mainer. During the course of his 32-year residency in Liberty, McLaughlin - artist, engineer, eccentric - has succumbed to the culture. For reasons that even he cannot explain, McLaughlin has managed to collect 750 tons of scrap metal and hardware in an abandoned cannery he bought in 1972. Or maybe it's 1,000 tons. McLaughlin lost track years ago.
Wooden doors and window shutters. Old faucets and plumbing parts. A 40,000-pound pile of steel over here, a hulking collection of sturdy old vises over there. It's not so much that he can't divest himself of something that might be useful to him someday - a common affliction in these parts, where rusted car frames and battered appliances adorn the rural landscape. McLaughlin actively seeks twisted iron, steel and other metals. Even if he lived to be 100, the 62-year-old sculptor could not make enough art to reuse all the stuff he has accumulated.If McLaughlin were in the architectural salvage business, his collection might make sense. But he's not. His intent is to find an artful purpose for all this stuff. He believes that it is better to reuse than to discard, and thus he has found his way in the art world by creating heavy-metal sculpture.
McLaughlin occupies an important and often misunderstood niche in the Maine art world. He doesn't make pretty pictures, and his name has little cache in affluent coastal galleries.
But McLaughlin and dozens of other artists seeking isolated lives in rural Maine create their works from scavenged and discarded items that everyone else might consider worthless or trash. Their canvas is their home or land. And their work is not easily labeled, reflecting more inner passion than a need to fit a certain mold or tradition. Call them what you may: artists on the edge, rural artists or country artists. Their drive and creativity reflect the resourcefulness, independence and, yes, quirkiness, of the remote regions where they live. Their canvas is their home or land. And their work is not easily labeled, reflecting more inner passion than a need to fit a certain mold or tradition.
Just as the painters portray the state's natural beauty to the outside world, these artists define their landscape, and their place, in compelling and curious ways. "They're true artists in the purest sense," says Richard Lee of Brunswick, an artist himself and a fan of what he calls artists on the edge. "They live off the beaten path, and they are not doing their art for the market, particularly. They just do it."
A master with the torch, McLaughlin's latest endeavor is the creation of steel spheres, made from small shear rings that he rescued from the Brunswick Naval Air Station. He welds the rings together to make larger spheres. He just sent a load of completed work to Renaissance Gallery & Framing in Farmingdale, "and the plan right now is that I will use up the rings. I will make variations of the spheres until no one is interested in them." That might take some time. McLaughlin recently acquired 500 gallons of the rings.
-from Keyes, Bob. August 9, 2004. "Art Among the Refuse; Isolation and Castoffs Scavenged from the Material World are the Inspirations for Three Unorthodox Maine Artists". Portland Press Herald, copyright 2004 Blethen Maine Newspapers, Inc.
"After growing up in Boston, McLaughlin
went to Yale, where his abiding interest in finding the right screw led
him to his major. In a quest to weld a fender on to a motorcycle,
McLaughlin ended up in the art department, the only place with the right
equipment. When the fender was done, he kept on welding. 'I managed
to turn Yale into a trade school and that's not easy to do,' he says.
-from Kloehn, Steve, "Stuff is Everywhere," Bangor Daily News, date unknown
Reclaimed: Works by David McLaughlin and Mildred Johnson
Work in the Davistown Museum Permanent Collection
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