Manorville’s Stargazer sculpture is in bad shape. It’s steel bones exposed after an August storm tore off its red fiberglass covering. Now an effort is underway to restore the public art pieces, a roadside attraction akin to the Big Duck and one that marks the gateway to the Hamptons.
The sculpture was built by the late artist Linda Scott for the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons in East Hampton. Officials there would not allow the nearly 50-foot sculpture for fear it would interfere with their town-owned airport. Instead it was situated on a Manorville sod farm, where since 1991 it has greeted East End travelers who pass it while leaving the Long Island Expressway and getting onto Sunrise Highway.
“When they come out, they notice it and they realize they’re here,” said David Morris, Scott’s longtime partner who has taken on the mantle of preserving her legacy. “They’ve made it to the Hamptons.” Scott died in 2015 at the age of 77.
Stargazer is a purposefully abstract representation. Morris said, and some people see a chicken’s comb or a creature with a bone in its mouth when they look at it (it is a deer’s head and it’s holding an antler.)
The sculpture was built with a steel frame covered in plywood and stucco, a common building practice at the time, Morris said, but not one that has stood up to the elements. Woodpeckers have poked holes in the wood, water has gotten in and a 2020 storm tore off the large sheaths of the covering.
Morris’ plan to rebuild the sculpture calls for stripping it, reinforcing the steel if necessary, covering it with pressure-treated wood and painting it its signature red. Upgrades would also include a proper drainage system and venting, which Morris believes will keep it strong for decades.
A crowdfunding effort is underway to pay for the repairs, and the Greenpoint, Brooklyn non-profit Arete Living Arts Foundation will handle the donations.
“It’s one of the largest public artworks on the East Coast,” said Cesar Pink, Arete’s executive director, “Public art affects a wider audience than a gallery or a museum, which I think is particularly important.” The goal is to raise $100,000 for repairs, which Morris said would take about 6 months to complete.
Connected to Nature
Scott felt a connection to animals and nature, and when she was a girl would try to warn deer if she knew hunters were on their way. Morris said one time when she was a teenager somewhere along the Peconic Bay in Southampton, Scott made eye contact with a buck just as hungers were on its trail. The animal leapt off a cliff, a fall she presumed broke its legs and killed it. She was wrong. “She took a look over and there it was,” Morris said, “It was swimming over to Ram Island (on Shelter Island).”
She channeled that moment into the “Stargazer” sculpture, the antler in its mouth representing a trophy for the victory of shedding one’s former self, Morris said.
“It was a symbol for her that if you’re an artist, whatever talent you have, you have to go for it,” Morris said. “It’s like life and death.”