The Metal Sculptures of Walter Liff
Rendering nature - a new castle metal sculptor has created a unique way to appreciate the view.
"Beauty, the 'Common' Denominator" by Walter Liff located at the New Castle Common.
PHOTO BY JIM SALGE
They jogged together every morning, starting out at dawn. The two of them — Walter Liff and Tom Quinn — always ran through the New Castle Common to take in its stunning ocean view. LIff says, "We saw so many beautiful sunrises over the years."
Liff, who's a renowned metal sculptor, decided to create an interactive sculpture — a picture frame — to place on the Common so people could stop and create their own experiences of the special spot. All the elements were there — an ever-changing sky and ocean, the Portsmouth and Whaleback lighthouses, the Isles of Shoals, boats and whatever might be happening at the time. "You might catch a rainbow," he says.
But the sculpture, called "Beauty, the 'Common' Denominator," is not just a frame; there is a painter in a distinctive pork pie hat. The painter is Liff's friend and fellow jogger, Tom Quinn, a retired surgeon who turned to painting as a pastime. Liff sneaked a photo of Quinn at work one day in his trademark pork pie hat and used it as a model. Liff says, "I wanted it to be a surprise."
The unique (it's copyrighted) sculpture was set up on the Common, ready for a surprise unveiling for Quinn, but the day was drizzly and Quinn didn't want to run. Liff finally convinced him and the deed was done.
Liff now jogs without Quinn — he passed away three years ago. Whenever the now-73-year-old Liff runs by the sculpture, it is a visual reminder of their long friendship and their many mornings together.
The New Castle Common sculpture is not Liff's usual subject matter. An avid naturalist, he known primarily for his wildlife sculptures — herons, wolves, whales, owls, osprey and more made from steel, copper and aluminum. He's also known for his custom-made weathervanes, some of them 23k gold leaf. His work can be found in private and corporate collections throughout the US and Europe. He's a juried member of several elite art societies, including the League of NH Craftsmen. A miniature of his Great Blue Heron was displayed on the White House Christmas tree in 1993, and is part of the permanent collection there.
Liff started sculpting in metal later in life, in his 50s; before that, his material was wood. He changed to metal after his now-deceased son Paul, who had MS, took a welding course in high school and taught him how to do it. "It was a great time together," Liff says. "A real remembrance."
Other Walter Liff public art sculptures:
- "Story Time" sculpture in front of the New Castle Elementary School Rte. 1B
- "Atlantic Cod Fish" weathervane mounted on top of the New Castle recreation building and library
- "Small Children Playing at the Playground" weathervane mounted on top of the restroom facilities near the New Castle common playground
- “Great Blue Heron in flight and Cormorant Drying Wings” on the dock at New Castle Avenue, Rte. 1B
- Life-size "Great Blue Heron Silhouette Scene” at the Seacoast Science Center in Rye
- Life-size "Baby Humpback Whale" mounted over the entrance to the Seacoast Science Center – pictured on the right.