BANGOR, Maine — Artist J. Normand Martin, the man who designed Bangor’s famous Paul Bunyan statue, has unveiled his design for a companion to the lumberjack: Babe the Blue Ox.
After two months of work, Martin presented his model for the new statue Thursday to the city’s Commission on Cultural Development.
“I had some statuary oxen to go by, but they looked threatening, and since this is more for kids than adults, I preferred to put on a friendly look,” he said.
The clay model is blue with horns, a tuft of white hair and a white underbelly. He also has a white, heart-shaped blaze upon his forehead.
According to popular legend, Bunyan discovered Babe during a winter that was so cold the snow turned blue, staining the ox blue in the process.
Martin, 89, said he removed the sculpture’s genitalia the day before presenting the design because it made the ox more kid-friendly and because he feared it would become a target for teenagers to “do strange things.”
“Enough people felt it would be better without,” he said.
If constructed, Babe would stretch 37 feet long from the tip of his nose to the farthest reaching curve of his tail.
He would be made of fiberglass and stand 17 feet tall from horn to hoof compared with Paul’s 31-foot stature. Like Paul, he would stand on a base between 6 and 8 feet tall.
“It is my understanding that it would be the largest statue of Babe accompanying the largest statue of Paul Bunyan,” said the artist’s son, J. Martin Jr., who is spearheading private fundraising for the project.
Reaction from the commission was generally positive.
“I think this is such a great project, and it’s really clear you guys have gotten so much community support for all of this, which is fantastic,” said commission member Emily Burnham, who is also a writer at the Bangor Daily News.
Commission member Ulrike Guthrie said she was delighted with how the sculpture turned out because the original three-dimensional rendering appeared “imposing” and “didn’t quite mesh yet.”
However, questions were raised about the ox’s genitalia, with Guthrie suggesting the anatomy be reinstated.
“If there were a cow without her udder, she wouldn’t be a cow,” Guthrie argued.
According to Martin Jr., oxen are often castrated to make them easier to control, so the sculpture may actually be close to anatomically correct.
The commission’s Art in Public Places Subcommittee is expected to address that issue and whether to recommend that the city allow its construction adjacent to Bunyan on city-owned land near the Cross Insurance Center in a meeting within the next week or two.
That subcommittee is made up of commission members Mary Budd, Thomas Avila and Kiersten Piccininni and will make a recommendation to the City Council’s Government Operations Committee, which will then make a recommendation for the full council to consider.
In June, he approached the government operations committee, seeking the city’s support for the larger project and was referred to the cultural commission.
Martin Jr. said they will not begin fundraising for the full statue until they have the city’s approval and plan to unveil the statue on July 4. His father estimated the statue would cost at least $100,000.
According to Martin Jr., the statue would be paid for entirely from private contributions.
It remains unclear whether the city will be asked to contribute. A concept outline submitted to the government operations committee in June called for Bangor Public Works to build the base for the statue, but the committee did not discuss that, and the matter remains open to negotiation.
Follow Evan Belanger on Twitter at @evanbelanger.