WARREN – The public can preview a sculpture on Father’s Day that took six years in the works, a work of art that will honor the crew of the ill-fated cargo ship El Faro.
Jay Sawyer said that the metal sculpture – El Faro Salute! – comes out deep inside him.
“It came right out of my gut,” said Sawyer, who is a graduate of the Maine Maritime Academy in Castine. “It really shook me.”
Five of the 33 crew members lost — when the El Faro sank off the Bahamas during Hurricane Joaquin on October 1, 2015 — were graduates of the Maine Maritime Academy. Two were Rockland residents – 34-year-old second mate Danielle Randolph and 23-year-old third assistant engineer Dylan Meklin.
Sawyer was an engineer who worked on merchant ships from 1985 to 1995. He said his intention when he enrolled at Maine Maritime was to go to sea, earn an income, and then come home and pursue his passions. One of those passions that he eventually discovered was creating sculptures.
He took a basic welding course and then performed welding while serving on Exxon ships. He benefited from this ability in his sculptures. His first art exhibition was shown in 2007.
The 60-year-old Warren man’s most prominent work to date is Riding the Rails, which is set above Sandy Beach in Rockland’s South End. He said the location overlooking Rockland Harbor next to a railroad line was the perfect spot for this sculpture.
He said Rockland was also the place to do the El Faro Salute!
“Given Rockland’s maritime history, the fact that two of the crew were Rockland natives, and that Rockland is the arts capital of Maine, this was the right place,” Sawyer said.
He said after the El Faro tragedy he came up with a big concept to honor the crew and has since distilled it so he can take care of the project. The El Faro Salute! consists of different types of steel. The transom is three-quarter inch Cor-Ten steel. This steel shows some rust but then develops a skin that prevents further rusting. The two uniforms are made of an eighth of an inch steel.
More than a ton of steel is used for the sculpture.
The El Faro Salute! is scheduled for Saturday, September 24th at Dragon Products’ property near where Riding the Rails is on display with a formal dedication ceremony. But the public can get a glimpse of the progress that has been made on the El Faro sculpture so far.
A special open house is planned for alumni and friends of the Maine Maritime Academy on Saturday, June 18, with the general public open house at Sawyer’s on Sunday, June 19 from noon to 4 p.m. His studio and grounds are located at 131 Camden Road (Route 90). in goods.
MMA alumni have contributed financially to support ongoing work. He raised $100,000 of the $135,000 budget for the El Faro Salute! He said the public can help preserve the sculpture. The Penobscot Maritime Museum at Searsport is the financial agent for the project.
“I think the community will be proud of it,” he said, noting that maritime monuments will attract people from all over the world.
The cargo ship departed from Jacksonville, Fla., for this voyage in 2015, and many of the families live nearby.