From Inside Out

Bernard Langlais, 1976.
Photograph by David Hiser, courtesy of the Colby College Museum of Art and the Bernard Langlais Art Trail

Bernard Langlais, affectionately known as Blackie, grew up amongst the woods of north central Maine. Son of a carpenter and one of ten children, Langlais knew he would be an artist at an early age. He found success in New York as a painter, and showed his early wood sculptures alongside Warhol and Rauschenberg at Leo Castelli’s eponymous gallery. Disenchanted by the New York gallery scene, Lagnlais transitioned from an art world insider to a creator of outsider art when, in 1966, he committed himself to making figurative wood sculptures. In the brief 11 year period before his untimely death in 1977, Blackie filled his 90 acre property in Cushing Maine with monumental carved wood sculptures. Lions were his favorite subject matter, but Langlais carved and painted the entire animal kingdom with a loving hand and distinctive soulfulness. After his death, the homestead, surrounding property and thousands of sculptures were donated to the Colby College Museum of Art in Waterville. Today, visitors can walk among his massive works the Langlais Sculpture Preserve which covers a portion of his original estate.

Langlais, gentle lion of Maine art, made art work that is utterly his own. He was not so much out of the mainstream but up river from it, nearer, perhaps, to its redemptive source for an artist as fiercely independent as Langlais. Lions and tigers... and whatever the wood told Blackie it wanted to be.

Excerpt from an essay by Christopher Crosman for Bernard Langlais at Alexandre Gallery, New York

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