The Swordfish Harpooner

The image of the Swordfish Harpooner came to Jay in a dream. He had recently been discussing the decline of the swordfish fishery with his neighbors Greg and Jonathan Mayhew and their brother Skipper. The Mayhew brothers are among the last harpooners left in New England. Longlining catches swordfish more easily but it is very indiscriminate in what it kills. Many young swordfish are caught before they are mature enough to produce the next generation of swordfish. Harpooning, on the other hand, only catches the mature larger swordfish. They never accidentally harpoon a sea turtle or a dolphin or a shark.

Jay made the first Swordfish Harpooner using bent wire coat hangers and some local Squibnocket red clay. When the clay started drying it began to shrink and crack since the wire armature didn't shrink. After the first sculpture fell apart, Jay made a second Swordfish Harpooner out of regular armature wire and plasticene modeling clay. This was shown at his first open studio in 1991 the day before hurricane Bob blew off part of Jay's roof.

The Swordfish Harpooner in Menemsha was commissioned by the Chilmark Tricentennial Committee based on a third Swordfish Harpooner that Jay had made out of plaster over aluminum armature wire. Jay built the steel framework for the full-sized Swordfish Harpooner at his studio in Chilmark. Figuring out how to enlarge his small model up to a 17 foot high monument wasn't easy but friends would somehow drop by when they were needed, especially John Wiener, a sculptor who had carved marble in Italy and now lives in Oak bluffs.

The steel framework Swordfish Harpooner was put up in its place in Menemsha at the end of July 1994, in time for the Harbor day festivities.

After several people expressed an interest in a bronze version of the Swordfish Harpooner Jay sculpted a wax model and took it to a workshop in ceramic shell bronze casting at the Johnson Atelier in New Jersey. He returned to Martha's Vineyard a week later with the Swordfish Harpooner cast in bronze, but in three pieces which Jay had to weld back together in his studio. He then took this piece to the Paul King Foundry in Rhode Island where the signed and numbered edition of bronze Swordfish Harpooner is made.

This is number 16. It is mounted on a granite rock that was brought to the south beach of Martha’s Vineyard during the last ice age.

Each bronze is signed and numbered. The bronzes are suitable for both indoor and outdoor placement, and will last a lot longer than either of us. The price is $2,600 plus shipping. We can ship it UPS so the shipping is quite reasonable. I strongly believe in my artwork and I am always willing to exchange it for a full refund of the purchase price, excluding shipping and handling.

One of the things I love about outdoor sculpture is the way it changes and interacts with its environment. Years ago someone put a Santa had on the Stricker's head to Celebrate the Christmas Season. Now it has become a local tradition. There are rumors as to who is responsible, I'm not sure I believe any of them; maybe it's some of Santa's elves.

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