By Jennifer Russell Benson
If you have driven by Monrovia Nursery Company on Route 10 at Floydville Road since last summer, you may have noticed two large objects out in the field. Perhaps you wondered what they were: Farm implements from Granby’s past? Antique weapons? Art? Well, if you guessed the last, you were right. The two sculptures were conceived and created by local artist Brad McDougall.
These sculptures were too large for McDougall’s property, so he, and friend Mark Hixson, who works at Monrovia, arranged to install them at Monrovia. The sculptures are part of a series made of steel, wood, brass and bronze that McDougall has been working on for over two years. So far, the series consists of twelve implements, some on display at his home, some already sold, some at Gallery 4 in Tiverton, Rhode Island and the two at Monrovia.
The series is temporarily titled Useless Farm Implements; McDougall welcomes suggestions for a better marketing name. McDougall’s fascination with tools, machines, cars, all things with a name, model number and function, began when he was a boy. When he conceived this sculpture series, he was inspired to make things with no model and no use. For example, the connected wheels and “blades” are of entirely different scales; the wheels would need to be much larger if the blades were intended to plow soil. McDougall commented that abstract art is difficult to create when using found objects; the problem, for instance, when using a wheel is how to make it not a wheel. The useless farm implements at his home are small and close enough to handle; while one can experience “hands-on” that they would not work, they are beautiful and interesting to behold and therein lies usefulness.
The larger sculpture at Monrovia is quite enormous. It took months to construct and required work from atop a ladder and help from a friend with logging equipment to flip the sculpture so it could be worked from the other side. The wheels were found at an antique store in Lee, Massachusetts. Written on them is “C.A. Lawton Co., De Pere WI” (Wisconsin). McDougall likes this as it adds historical reference and character to the work. McDougall signs and dates each work, and they are for sale.
At one point during the summer, there were flowers around the sculptures at the Monrovia site. Did McDougall object to this alteration of his art? No, his thinking is, “the more art the merrier.” He explained that people, including his wife Thérèse Mulvey, often decorate his various sculptures.
During and after college at Rochester Institute of Technology, McDougall studied blacksmithing at Penland School of Crafts, located in the Blue Ridge Mountains. In a shop on the campus of RIT, he perfected his skill as a blacksmith. Now, McDougall makes his living as a designer and craftsman. In addition to selling his own sculptures, other artists engage him to construct their work when it requires forging. He also designs and builds original furniture. With a blacksmith shop and studio in the barn outside the lovely 1700’s era home he shares with Thérèse and their daughters Olivia and Georgia, McDougall works in the pastoral setting of Lost Acres Road, between Lost Acres Winery and Lost Acres Orchard. The public is welcome at his studio, by appointment. McDougall’s phone number is 860-558-8598. Visit his website at bradfordmcdougall.com and get a sense for the artist’s humor and his great talent.