When you are walking around the Gorham campus these last weeks of the semester, be sure to take a break and sit out on the grass behind Corthell Hall and take in the gigantic spiral sculpture.
The 31-foot tall, 15-foot wide sculpture was created by senior art education major Barry Pitchfortch for his senior exhibition. Pitchfortch, whose previous 30-year career was boat building, used polyethylene film, the same shrinking material used for boats, to create the sculpture’s waxy look.
When heated, the material shrinks to fit the internal structure. The sculpture is anchored into the ground by tent steaks and holds firm to its wooden frame. Pitchfortch’s sons helped him build the frame at home and mount it on campus.
“The integrity of the structure depends on the skin of the sculpture and how the shrinking ties into it,” said Pitchfortch.
The design was inspired by 13th century Sufi poet Rumi and his poem “A Prayer from Rumi.” Sufis are the mystics of Islam and Rumi lived in the area now known as Afghanistan. Pitchfortch calls him a “relevant poet for today.”
“Through his poetry he says something that can’t be said any other way. Through my sculpture I can say it in my way.”
Pitchfortch became inspired by the Sufi way of prayer and dancing, called whirling dervishes. These mystics spin around while deep in prayer and song, hoping to become one with God. His sculpture brings about the spiral imagery of the dervishes. The spire at the top of the sculpture is also a common feature of Islamic art.
“Today, in the world, this poet made sense to me” says Pitchfortch.
Last year Pitchfortch created three sail-like sculptures, which sat in the water, mounted on pipes in Portland’s Back Cove. The sculptures, when blown by the wind, would revolve around like real sails.
Pitchfortch said the purpose of that sculpture was to “bring about awareness of the environment.”
“I like the idea of public art.” said Pitchfortch. “You receive negative and positive comments but public art creates a great dialogue.”
Pitchfortch has been student teaching art at Sanford High School and upon graduation he plans to get his teaching certificate and teach art.
Pitchfortch’s latest work will be on display until May 6 on the Gorham campus green.
Staff Writer Nicolette Harding can be contacted at: [email protected]