September 6, 2012

Keene church transformed into sculpture gallery


---- — KEENE — Though the facade of the old Methodist Church here has remained the same, the interior now features the Keene Arts Sculpture Gallery.

The gallery primarily includes the work of Malcolm MacDougall III, with creations by Craig Usher and Matt Horner also on display.

Malcolm III’s father, Malcolm MacDougall Jr., a filmmaker, and mother, Zizi, an earth science teacher, have been helping him transport his constructions from his studio in Westchester to the North Country. 

“The biggest challenge is what to do with the pieces and where to place them in the gallery,” Malcolm Jr. said as he moved his son’s nearly 2,000-pound sculpture entitled “Conflicts of Growth” into place with a hand-operated forklift.  


Many of Malcolm III’s works are comprised of pieces of stainless steel welded and given a patina covering. 

The welds are evident as “it is made to look like something that is growing,” said Malcolm III, who studied at SUNY Purchase College of Art and Design, graduating with a bachelor’s of fine arts in sculpture. “They are like organisms such as bacteria that you would see through a microscope and should be moving. Some are like blood platelets, and I try to make them to look like you are anticipating movement.” 

Malcolm III creates his works in a 5,000-square-foot airplane hangar of WWII vintage that had once been erected at Pearl Harbor and is now located on the Hudson River at Dobbs Ferry. The hangar was transported to its present location to provide national security during the Cold War. Malcolm III rehabilitated the structure and outfitted the interior for creating his massive sculptures.

One of Malcolm III’s large-scale projects “Microscopic Landscape” was installed in New York City’s Union Square Park in June and is scheduled to remain there until January 2013. His other exhibitions include “Two Sculptors on Hudson/Emerging Forms” at Hastings-on-Hudson and “Modern Art and the Landscape” at the Widerstein Historic Site in Rhinebeck. In addition, he has previously exhibited “Microscopic Landscape” at the entrance of SUNY Purchase.

According to his website, his work stems from a fascination with the natural sciences — particularly microscopy, which is the field of using microscopes to view objects that cannot be seen by the unaided eye. 

“The snapshots of bacteria and cellular platelets retrieved by this method are a metaphor for my sculptures in that, although stagnate, in reality they are imbued with the sense that the forms and surfaces will continue to undulate and recalibrate as time passes. Conceptually, I am also drawn to tectonic plates and how their movement over time remodels and creates landscapes as well as other geological processes such as the effects of erosion,” the website states.

“Making is a process of exploration where I encounter gradual moments of realization and discovery through my work. I choose to work with industrial raw materials and embrace the technical processes of welding and metal casting. The quality of the indelible mark that is associated with working with these materials coincides with my intuitive working process allowing my work to mature as I mature, and the marks produced are a residue of this process visually. It’s important that the process of making these pieces is allowed to be acknowledged visually.”


Also displayed at the gallery are works by Horner and Usher. 

Horner collects stones from nearby rivers and mountains. His process starts with marking the stone and blocking out the form. Then he saws cuts into the rock, hand chisels off the unwanted material, and grinds and polishes the form to achieve the desired finish. 

According to his website, “The forms that emerge, with their organic, flowing curves and earthy palette of colors, are a reflection of the inspiration Horner draws from his abundantly mountainous home.” 

Usher, according to his posted information, “seeks to discover meaning through the making of sculpture. It is a way to make sense of or to question my reality. Like a hunter who waits quietly for life in the forest to show itself, I seek what the piece is saying and then respond intuitively. I do not know what it is or where, only that I am on the way, like taking a Sunday drive. One just feels out which road to take.”


The Methodist Church dates back to 1836. Although the pews have been removed, the MacDougalls refinished the wood floors and have kept the stained-glass windows intact. In addition, the bell in the steeple is attached to a rope, which allows it to be rung. 

“It’s still a place for people to gather, a public venue,” Malcolm Jr. said.

“I have made this a place for the people of the community to enjoy and hopefully purchase a sculpture. I have tried to curate works to have a small grouping and to allow them to have a conversation with each other. In the future, such as next summer, perhaps we will have different artists,” Malcolm III said.

“Although it is decidedly different, it is inspired by nature. It is a nice balance,” his father added.

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TO LEARN MORE Keene Arts Sculpture Gallery is located on Route 73 in Keene. The gallery is open afternoons and evenings, Thursdays through Sundays, or by appointment, through October. For more information, call (914) 309-7095 or visit