Fisherman’s memorial proposed
“They might have split up or they might have capsized, or they might have broke deep and took water. And all that remains is the faces and names of the wives and the sons and the daughters.” – Gordon Lightfoot, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” 1976.
Blaine sculptor Bob McDermott, best known locally for his bronze statue of “Dirty Dan” Harris in Fairhaven, hopes soon to erect a larger than life sculpture here in Blaine, hopefully on the boardwalk, and thereby realize a dream he’s had for many years.
Last week he presented a scale model - technically called a “maquette” - of his idea, a larger than life-sized bronze statue he calls “Vigil,” to the Blaine city council. The statue is of three people, a young woman, an older woman who might be her mother and a young boy who could be her son, looking as if they’re waiting for someone to return from having been at sea.
“I’ve thought about this for years,” McDermott said of the origin of his idea, “especially when I’ve seen things like fishermen’s memorials, that it’s only half the story, and not even the most important part.” With dangerous occupations like fishing, McDermott explained, the ones who often get little if any recognition are those left behind.
Now, if all goes as a group of Blaine residents has planned, fundraising will begin in the hope that someday the statue will grace the boardwalk or some other salt water viewpoint just as Dirty Dan is rapidly becoming the symbol of old Fairhaven.
McDermott said that even though his life-size version is considerably bigger than the ma-quette he brought to the council meeting, constructing the model is the real work.
“Making it larger isn’t hard,” he said, “because most of the artistic decisions are made at this stage. It’s also a handy way to show it to people before they decide if they want to buy it or raise funds for it.” The small version is constructed of a plasticine oil-based clay that doesn’t dry out, much like Silly Putty.
Like many sculptors, McDermott builds a body the way nature does, from the inside out, beginning with a stick figure and working through a skeletal phase before he puts muscle on the bone. “When I know what the body is and what the gesture is going to be, then I can proceed with clothes and so on,” McDermott said.
As it happened, his maquette, or scale model, was just at the point where it’s ready for clothes but doesn’t yet have them when he brought it to show to the city council.
Asked if he really plans to put a statue of three naked people on Blaine’s new boardwalk, McDermott laughs. “No, of course not. It’s just where I am in the sculpting process,” McDermott explained, “because I make them nude before I put clothes on them. If the body’s right without clothes then it will be right with clothes, but if it’s wrong without clothes then no amount of patching and filling will correct that.”
The finished life-sized bronze statue may cost as much as $100,000 and will take “a collaboration of the willing,” he said, “people willing to raise money for a piece of public art that will enhance downtown and speak to Blaine’s heritage.”
Blaine city council member Bob Brunkow said that he felt the council was favorably impressed. “The business plan still seems a little vague to me,” he said, “but if that can be worked out, it would be a fine addition.”
Like that statue, ”Vigil” will be heavily reinforced with a stainless steel core, though unlike Dirty Dan, this statue doesn’t exactly invite people to sit on it.
McDermott is a Florida native and his wife Joan is from New York. They raised their children while working in southern California, later moving to eastern Washington for a job at Hanford. “When we retired in 1988, we literally drove all over the country for about six months,” he said, “and ended up in Whatcom County.” They were in Bellingham until moving to Blaine two years go.
The maquette took about five months to build, “and the life-sized piece will take about 14 months,” McDermott said.