“Feeling the Pinch” – Morgan Raimond on Sculpture

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Have you seen the giant crab claw on the Chestertown waterfront? Rising from the river side of the foot bridge between High and Cannon Streets, the copper sculpture, “Feeling the Pinch,” is a testimony to the natural environment as well as to the skill and imagination of the sculptor – Kent County native Morgan Raimond.

Morgan Raimond with “Feeling the Pinch”

Talking about his sculpture, created for the RiverArts 2017 Riverfest, Raimond said a crab’s claw looks powerful and strong, “but it’s sort of like the river – it’s really not. I mean, the crab is the basis for every fish’s diet – look at us – they don’t have a chance against us. They look like they could turn and fight, but that’s when they lose. And the river’s sort of the same way, it looks so strong and powerful and at the same time it’s really delicate and needs protection. So I just love the form and shape, and I love the taste of crab, so I was just inspired.”

Andy Goodard, RiverArts executive director, said the sculpture will be up through the end of Downrigging Weekend. She said there have been some inquiries about possible purchase of it and two others by Cindy Bowers Fulton, though none have sold yet.  So there’s still a chance for you!

Raimond, the son of Vince and Leslie Prince Raimond, is a 1986 graduate of Kent County High School. He began learning the blacksmith’s trade at age 12, when the family went to Mexico for a summer. Vince thought the experience would be a good way for the children to learn Spanish, Morgan said.

A resident of San Francisco for most of his adult life, Raimond specializes in rendering natural shapes –plants, butterflies, birds – in metallic form, whether as part of a gate or fence or in a free-standing site specific sculpture such as “Feeling the Pinch” or the Phoenix sculpture created on the Raimond family farm near Still Pond in memory of his father, Vince. (Click here for Chestertown Spy obituary for Vincent Raimond.)

Hand-wrought Metal Railings and Gate for the Jungle House, a private home in the San Francisco Area – designed and made by Morgan Raimond.

Raimond said he enjoyed growing up here – he mentioned fishing and crabbing in the river in his high school days – but by the time he graduated, it was “time to get out of Dodge,” he said. He spent a year traveling in Europe and North Africa, then headed for San Francisco, where has lived almost the entire time since.

Asked about how he got in to metal working, Morgan said that when Vince build the farmhouse at Toad Hall, he didn’t put in central heating because of the cost of oil. But after a couple of years, he decided that wood stoves were too much trouble, so he took the kids out of school and went to Mexico for the winter, putting the kids in school there. “But the upshot was that he was taking sculpture classes there, and he met this guy Angelo, who was a blacksmith from Sicily, and they became really close friends. So that summer, I was invited to go up to Angelo’s house in Canada and study blacksmithing with him. So when I was 13 I did my first apprenticeship with him.”

As it happened, Leslie’s sister ended up marrying Angelo, and they moved to California. So when Morgan decided to leave Chestertown, he became Angelo’s apprentice in San Francisco, working for three or four years with him. “He was a real old master,” Morgan said. ”I spent like the first six months sweeping the floor – that kind of old school apprenticeship. There was a lot of stuff I should have paid more attention or done more. I wish I remember half of what that guy had forgotten.”  He said Angelo’s work included “amazing gates and railings,” along with furniture, “really beautifully done high-end work.”

Since then, he’s been doing “whatever came along, some things not very exciting, others really exciting.” He said he ended up meeting several sculptors with whom he collaborated on monumental sculptures and public works in San Francisco. He described his own style as “naturalistic – stuff just comes out of me for some reason.”

“What’s so neat about metal work is that there’s so many different aspects to it, anywhere from rocket engineering to this kind of stuff (“Feeling the Pinch”) where you just whack it with a hammer and call it good,” he said.

One piece he mentioned that he particularly liked was a collaboration with his friend Brian Goggin. The pieces consisted of fragments of furniture cut apart, for which Raimond would build an internal steel armature to make them look like animals running. One installation had the “furniture animals” running off a roof at the Arts Center in the Yerba Buena Gardens section of San Francisco. Another was up for 15 years in San Francisco, at a residential hotel condemned after an earthquake. “We had bathtubs jumping out of the window, and lamps and couches and tables and chairs – it’s called ‘Defenestration.’ Tour buses would stop to look at it.”

“Defenestration” project with artist Brian Goggin in San Francisco hotel.

“Defenestration” close-up

He also mentioned a piece done at the Burning Man festival in collaboration with his friend Pepe Ozan. “I would help him weld together these big towers – we would go a month early to build these things. After the tower was built, they’d cover it with stucco mesh, then collect mud – “probably radioactive,” he joked – from the nearby hot springs to cover the sculptures, “and when it dried, it would crack so it looked like it was just growing right out of the playa.” They did that for four or five years. They also did another public sculpture in San Francisco. “I’ve been lucky over the years just to have really great artists become friends and collaborators,” he said.

“Everybody should go to Burning  Man at least once, just to see what’s possible in America – it’s kind of mind-blowing,” he said.

The Phoenix in memory of Vince Raimond

The phoenix created for Vince was a by-product of the work Morgan did with Pepe. “We would build a structure very similar to that and put the fire inside,” he said. “The phoenix just came out of a few lines I drew.” Leslie Raimond said the night Vince died she had been explaining the concept of resurrection to their granddaughters, “so we thought that was pretty appropriate.”

Morgan Raimond and Leslie Raimond

“I discovered I really like working with copper as a material,” Morgan said. He said he did an artichoke for the Napa Valley wine auction about 15 years ago, and he said he has been enrolled in a sculpture class in Mexico when he was young. “They would give you chisels and a hammer and a piece of tin and you would hammer on it and mark out little masks and stuff like that. So when I started doing the copper, it was like, ‘Wow, I used to do this when I was a kid. What’s neat about copper, is when you work it, it gets harder and harder, but when you heat it up and it gets cool, it’s soft as butter until you work it again. So you can hit it when it’s cold and it’s really malleable. There’s something really pleasurable about that.”

Raimond says he wears eye protection when he works, and in recent times hearing protection. “They have these headphones with a radio in them, so I turn those on and listen to my music. It’s funny, because a lot of the hammer marks are to a particular song, and then the tempo will change and it looks a little different.”

He said Angelo had built a forge out at the family farm, and did a lot of the ornamental railing there. “Feeling the Pinch” was built there. A year earlier, he had caught a crab and put one of the claws in the freezer, thinking there might not be any crabs around when he came back to do the sculpture. He said he was able to scale the claw up for the sculpture. He hadn’t done the elbow or shoulder yet, and then accidentally crushed it. So he went down to the Coast Guard station – “and I guess the first moult had happened, because I found hundreds of empty crab shells on the beach. So I was able to get another claw. That was lucky.”

The artistic gene runs in the family. Raimond said his daughter Camila has become an actress, currently studying drama at the San Francisco School of the Arts. He said Leslie had taken her to London and Paris to see several plays. “She was really inspired,” Leslie said.

“It’s really heartening to see how the arts have grown here in Kent County,” he said, crediting his parents for their work with the Kent County Arts Council. “Even people in San Francisco, when I tell them about it, they’re really impressed. Here the excitement’s raw, and you can see it making a difference.”

“Feeling the Pinch” is currently on a pedestal over the Chester River along the wooden walkway that goes from the foot of High Street to the Fish Whistle restaurant and the Chestertown Marina.

“Feeling the Pinch” on pedestal over Chester River . Sculpture by Cindy Fulton on next pedestal.

 

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Letters to Editor

  1. From reading this article, I like Morgan Raimond a lot. He’s been around. He’s had a very interesting life! This gives his crab claw an identity and a new meaning!

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