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Wethli's Piper Cub Sculpture to Be Exhibited at Coleman Burke Gallery

Story posted September 07, 2007

Mark Wethli smooths the propeller of his Piper Cub sculpture.

When jets roar across the sky for the Great State of Maine Airshow at the Brunswick Naval Air Station this year, a quieter — though possibly more surprising — airshow will be taking place at Fort Andross.

Mark Wethli, Bowdoin's A. LeRoy Greason Professor of Art is opening the doors there on a new sculptural installation, Piper Cub, at Brunswick's Coleman Burke Gallery from September 15 through November 3, 2007. The opening reception is Friday, September 14, 2007, from 5-8 p.m., coinciding with Brunswick's Second Friday Artwalk.

The artist has built a surreally impressive work—a full-scale wooden sculpture of a Piper Cub, one of the earliest and most popular light planes.

"The inspiration for this piece came from two sources," says Wethli, who is best known for his work in painting and public art. "The space and character of Coleman Burke Gallery reminded me of an airplane hangar, and also I have a personal connection to aviation and to the Piper Cub in particular—my father restored one from the ground up when I was five or six years old. Watching him restore it and then flying with him were a wonderful part of my early years.

Young Wethli and plane
A portrait of the artist as a young man (next to Dad's Piper Cub).

"As soon as I had the idea of building an airplane," Wethli continues, "the idea of using that plane was automatic. I also like the Cub because its design is so quintessential—its look and shape just say 'airplane' to me, at least in terms of private planes. Maybe it's my personal history with Piper Cubs, but it has a warm and gentle look about it—as well as a human scale—that give it a lot of personality."

This represents Wethli's first venture into three-dimensional work, he says. To build the plane, he drew blueprints based on sources from the Internet, photographs, first-hand research at local airports, and a 1/5-scale model of the plane that he built at the beginning of the summer. "I built model planes when I was a kid, but needed a refresher on how things went together."

Based on this information he began building the plane in June. Wethli also chose to display the plane in raw wood, without its typical fabric covering (with its signature bright yellow coloring), so that the structure and sculptural forms of the plane would be foremost.

He had some expert advice in its construction. Wethli's father, whom he describes as "fit as a fiddle," stopped by his studio over the summer to lend a hand. "He built his own plane as a labor of love, with his great, great love of flying in his bones. This is a tribute to him."

Coleman Burke Gallery is located in Fort Andross, 14 Maine Street, next to Frontier Café. Gallery hours are noon to 4 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday.

For more information, contact Mark Wethli at mwethli@bowdoin.edu or

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