Those who walk through Langley’s streets will be able to enjoy a new sculpture in the near future, and the installment will tower over the existing art pieces scattered across the sidewalks.
The Langley Arts Commission selected a winner on July 14 for their contest for South Whidbey artists to install their own art piece in front of the post office on Second Street in Langley. The City of Langley approved the arts commission’s plans for the art installation at the regular city council meeting on Monday night.
Langley wood carver and chainsaw sculptor Dexter Lewis took the crown for the arts commission’s contest with the metal-and-wood obelisk sculpture titled “Piercing the veil of deception.” The imposing, 14-foot sculpture was selected by the arts commission out of a field of seven entries, with chairman Frank Rose saying the commission was impressed by the presence the piece possesses.
There were eleven applicants from the start, but four weren’t considered because their various pieces weren’t applicable for the site due to size issues. The installment couldn’t be too wide, otherwise it could block motorists’ view of the stop sign on the corner of Second and Cascade Avenue.
Lewis’ piece is a big step away from his usual work. As the owner of Island Carvings, he usually can be seen in his outdoor studio with a handkerchief and shades covering his face while using a chainsaw to carve animal figures and nature-centric sculptures. But Lewis tried something new with his most recent work.
“I didn’t only just step out of the box for this one — I went way out of the box for me,” Lewis said. “I decided to go with a completely different style for this contest.”
Lewis incorporated steel into his wooden structure, employing it as a case of sorts for a wooden beam. He called on welder Nate Hingson, a childhood friend of his, for his expertise with metals to make his idea come together.
The chainsaw carver says he wanted the piece to say something to viewers rather than simply being a visual spectacle. Lewis prefers to keep the work’s underlying meaning open to interpretation, but said the “art-obelisk” is a modernized expression of an ancient structure that has a message of hope for truth.
“Tesla believed energy could be harnessed from the ground, brought up to the towers and given to the world for free: a veil of deception harder and thicker than this half inch plate of steel represented here,” Lewis said. “But it’s just art dude.”
Lewis considered the other displayed art along Second Street in the creative process and wanted to give Langley two things it was lacking: a wood piece and something powerful and striking.
“We selected Dexter’s [piece] because it’s a very creative idea, has lots of presence since it’s 14 feet high and made of steel and western red cedar,” Rose said. “It also has a northwest feel to it because of the wood.”
The structure is actually far from the idea he initially submitted to the arts commission. What began as an idea to carve an eagle landing on a branch grew into an abstract structure with subliminal meaning, much in line with the direction his art is headed. Although his outdoor studio is lined with wooden animals and similar nature pieces, he sees himself dabbling in a more abstract artistic direction. This is the first public art display contest he has entered, and Rose thinks the immediate success is a sign of Lewis growing into his own.
“Dexter is an up and coming creative artist,” Rose said. “He’s jumped from his old style to doing some magnificent work, and that’s not to say his old work isn’t great. It shows flexibility.”
Although it isn’t yet finalized, Rose says the arts commission is attempting to have an unveiling of the obelisk on Labor Day weekend. Much like the well attended Clyde Alley Archway unveiling on the weekend after the Fourth of July, the commission is looking to capitalize on the large numbers of visitors and locals on holiday to create a buzz around the unveiling. It will be the first look at Lewis’ transformation of sorts as an artist.
“To the core I’m a chainsaw carver, but I’m evolving,” Lewis said.