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Ocean Monument to the First People

A public project led by Michael Rothschild

Project Proposal

Fifteen years ago, Rothschild made etchings of prehistoric human figures carved into the rock of a remote island off the coast of Maine. He is now proposing to attach 35-foot sculptures of these figures in the bedrock of the Machias Bay, where they will interact with the world’s highest tides.

In both his fiction and art, Rothschild has drawn on a lifelong absorption with animals, plants, stones, and the ocean. His fiction often deals with early Maine history, particularly the collision between colonists, settlers and the native peoples of Maine.

Thoughts of monumental anthromorphs covered and revealed by the large tides of far downeast Maine began some fifteen years ago when he spent several days on an island in Machais Bay. There, at low tide, slender, horned human figures are seen, incised in the ledge. It was these figures that first gave rise to the possibility of constructing a large public sculpture.

Michael has been interested in the prehistory of Maine and the tribal histories of the Abenakis, Penobscots, and Malaceets since he was a little boy growing up in Maine. Michael's first encounter with the 3000 year old petroglyphs created a lifelong impression. He remembers that the oldest glyphs were clearest in raking light at dawn and dusk - long, tapered torsos, elegant, alien stick figures. He read about the glyphs and their histories--stories of fertility, and of hunting success. The figures have stayed with him for fifteeen years.

Michael sees the figures incised in stone, rising up from the ledges, and walking into the sunrise. Rather than enter a debate about who, when, and why, he's interested in the expressive power of the forms and the relationship of the forms to the land and the sea.

Michael's vision is to create several figures based on the early glyphs, twenty-five to thirty-five feet tall, moving downeast toward Eastport. He wants to erect figures from the ocean floor that will be completely submerged when the tides come in, and completely revealed when the tide is out. Of course, rockweed, kelp and barnacles, whelks, and all sorts of things will grow and cling to these large armatures. Of course, these will be welcome, and if properly sited, a transverse line will cut through categories of environmental installation, creating EARTH ART.

The "first people" would appear, grow, be revealed each time the tides went down, and then drown slowly, and vanish as the tides ebb back. Michael sees people, the public, watching from outcroppings and even walking across the land to see the figures - they will be able to approach at the low tide but will be forced to retreat as the large tides of the region flood back in. This will be a public installation, available to anyone who is interested in witnessing the emerging and disappearing figures, and will be an artistic gift to the natural coast of Maine.

About the Artist

Michael Rothschild is a writer, sculptor, printmaker and farmer. He was born in Maine where he has lived all his life. Two short story collections have been published by Viking/Penguin: Rhapsody of a Hermit and Wondermonger. He received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and appeared three times in the Best American Short Stories collections.

For the better part of the last twenty years Michael has made sculpture in wood, stone, bone and lead as well as numerous etchings, aquatints and linocuts that he prints on a large press in the farmhouse. Selections of his sculpture, etchings, linocuts, and drawings appear in Jubilate, Works by Michael Rothschild. His work is in many collections and museums and has been shown in the People’s Republic of China where he lectured on fiction and art in Beijing, Xi’An and Nanjing.

Michael lives and works on his 200 acre farm where he and his extended family raise Suffolk sheep, Angus beef, hogs, flocks of chickens, Muscovy ducks and turkeys and a Jersey milk cow. He is currently grafting and setting out a new orchard of old strain apples and pears and building a large cider press out of rock maple.

Artist's Past Work

Black Slate in steel case.



Various pieces
Lead, Mahogany, Ink.

Wondermonger, 1990
From Publishers Weekly: Rothschild's lapidary use of language is itself nearly the central figure in these 10 stories. It would be a mistake, however, for the author's dazzling style to blind the reader to the urgency of the themes here--birth and death are twin motifs of these short fictions. The most exquisite pieces are also the briefest: "The Toad," in which a pregnant woman watches a garden snake engulf a toad that she has admired for "its serene frowning presence, black egg-shaped pupil in a bronze rim"; and "A Land Without Fossils," in which a father puts aside his painting of a dead bird to confront the lushly exotic realm his five-year-old son has imagined as "the place where he had lived before he was a son." Elsewhere, men breed animals just as easily as they kill ("Dog in the Manger"); in the title story, a man who falsely reports another's death assists in the birth of the latter's child. This collection is to be savored for its marriage of voluptuous artistry and unblinking honesty.

From Library Journal: Rothschild's territory is the unstaked North country of Maine, a land of tree-necked woodsmen; hunters; fecund, witchy women; and the hidden reaches of the human heart. The title novella is a rich, mythic tale of love and revenge, of legendary logger Mordecai Rime, who bites off great chunks of prose and spews out poetry. By turns enchanting and bawdy, the tale ends in an excess of horror that matches its mighty players. In other stories the author explores a historical account of Indian betrayal, a man's obsession with falconry, hunters and hunted, and the terrible ironies and retribution wrought by man's taming the land and its beasts. Several of the stories appeared in the collection Rhapsody of a Hermit (1973) and in Best American Short Stories. They resonate with the mythic power of Beowulf, the moral preoccupations of Hawthorne or Faulkner. - Mary Soete, San Diego P.L.

Photos above by Madeleine de Sinety

Ocean - Right2

Your Voice

Ocean - Right1

From The Artist


The Wildness Project


The Wildness Project has become the new "brand" of this project, a collaborative effort with sculptor Michael Rothschild to place a series of colossal sculptures off the coast of Maine. 


With this new name, Trust Art is also releasing The Wildness Candle to raise awareness and support for the project, which has been inspired by a series of petroglyphs carved over two thousand years ago.

The Wildness Candle is based on the Helper Demon petroglyph, a benevolent spirit who aids in the creative process. Handmade in Brooklyn by apprentice Seth Aylmer, the all-natural beeswax candle is lightly scented with pine needle oil, with a cotton wick and copper penny base.

The Wildness Candle is the second in a series of fine art products released by Trust Art, giving people the opportunity to collect limited-edition pieces connected with ongoing public art projects.


The Wildness Candle is available here for $25.




Michael Rothschild and Seth Aylmer's 'Shaman Colossus' is part of Brave Brooklyn

Brave Brooklyn is an art exhibit and auction to benefit the Open Space Alliance for North Brooklyn (OSA) and Trust Art projects supported by OSA. Brave Brooklyn will be open to the public December 4-11.

Along with various other works, including that of pre-eminent sculptor Richard Serra and mixed-media artist Fred Tomaselli, this exhibition features the artwork of Trust Art artists proposing new public art projects in collaboration with OSA.

To help fundraise for Michael's upcoming public artwork, Ocean Monument, Trust Art and OSA are auctioning this piece by Seth Aylmer (Michael's apprentice):

Shaman Colossus, 2009, Photograph & acrylic paint
Rothschild's fascination with the ancient petroglyphs in Down east Maine have been documented in many forms. His apprentice and Trust Art co-founder, Seth Aylmer, continues to experiment with the powerful relationship of these figures with the modern person. Having photographed one of the various petroglyphs found on the coastal cliffs, Rothschild and Aylmer probe deeper into these images, testing their force by enlarging the figure and by adding touches of paint to stand out as markers of one's attempt to connect with not only the image, but with the person who first made their sustained mark 3000 years ago.

Go to eBay to bid on this piece.  The starting bid is $800 and the auction closes on December 11 at 9pm (EST).

The work is on view until December 11 at 30 Dobbins Street in Williamsburg.  There is a closing reception open to the public on December 11, 6-9pm.  Join us if you are in Brooklyn!

Other artists in this exhibit include: Bradley Brown, James Case, Ryan Goolsby, Weston Woolly, Emily Goode, Suzanne Zwicky, Gidalya Tashman, Karl Metz, Adam Taye, Chris Burnside, James Woodward, Robbert Jan de Oude, Sam Martineau, Lizzy Wezler, Matt Jones, Kristin Deirup, Jesse Witkin, Kris Graves, Nathan Koch, and Molly Surno.

More info at


I Want to Really Be Doing What It Is That Im Doing [VIDEO]


Spirit Figures in Machias Bay [VIDEO]

Michael Rothschild's project was inspired by the figures carved into stone ledges in Machias Bay almost 3000 years ago by Native American shamans. Anthropologist Ray Gerber, with whom Michael traveled to Machias Bay, made a documentary of the petroglyphs of Maine titled "Song of the Drum", from which the above video excerpts were taken.

Emerson wrote an essay on art and beauty, in which he says of the hieroglyphics of Egyptian, Indian, Chinese and Mexican cultures: "they denote the height of the human soul at that hour, and were not fantastic, but sprung from a necessity as deep as the world."



Etchings from Machias Bay

These are some copper etchings Michael made of the glyphs he found in Machias Bay. It is these characters that Michael wants to revive as magnificent scultptures emerging from the ocean.