A seven-foot tall sculpture of a donkey that Richmond artist Doug Chess spent two years making and had recently completed was destroyed by fire early Saturday morning. Chess, a Democrat, had been moving it around northern Sagadahoc County in the run up to the election to build support for candidates. Credit: Courtesy of Doug Chess

On the same morning that liberals across the country mourned the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Democrats in Sagadahoc County held their own remembrance for another lion — or rather, donkey — who had recently passed.

Richmond artist Doug Chess spent the last two years building a seven-foot-tall sculpture of a donkey out of wood, cardboard, paint and fiberglass. He stationed it on a trailer and has been trucking it around to different people’s yards to build support for left-leaning candidates in a bid to defeat President Donald Trump.

The trailer was made to look like a small fenced-in pen filled with hay and included painted phrases such as “Vote Informed” and “Do Not Be Fooled By Liars & Con Men: Vote.”

But around 1:30 a.m. Saturday, the latest host of the donkey — named Mr. H — woke up to find that it was engulfed in flames in the spot it had been left on her front yard. By morning, it was totally destroyed.

A seven-foot tall sculpture of a donkey that Richmond artist Doug Chess spent two years making and had recently completed was destroyed by fire early Saturday morning. Chess, a Democrat, had been moving it around northern Sagadahoc County in the run up to the election to build support for candidates. Credit: Courtesy of Theresa Turgeon

Theresa Turgeon, a Bowdoinham resident who is running for that town’s select board and has yard signs boosting numerous other Democratic candidates, said the fire appeared to be intentionally set and is under investigation by the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office.

A Sagadahoc County emergency dispatcher said that a deputy did respond to the early morning fire, but the deputy was not available to speak on Saturday afternoon.

On Saturday morning, a few dozen community members held a rally to mourn what appeared to be the intentional destruction of the detailed sculpture, said state Rep. Seth Berry, a Bowdoinham Democrat.

Chess had modeled Mr. H after actual donkeys that he had observed. The final product included impressionistic painting, an outer layer of fiberglass that had been raked to give it the texture of hair and a piece of black rope embedded in the top of its head to look like a mane. 

“It was just incredibly well made,” Berry said. “It was strong enough to ride on. It had a brand new trailer, all made by hand. It was just a real labor of love.”

A seven-foot tall sculpture of a donkey that Richmond artist Doug Chess spent two years making and had recently completed was destroyed by fire early Saturday morning. Chess, a Democrat, had been moving it around northern Sagadahoc County in the run up to the election to build support for candidates. Credit: Doug Chess

Chess said that he was not totally surprised that someone may have destroyed the piece of political art into which he had poured so much effort. He took photos throughout its creation in part to have a record that it had once existed, he said.

“I’m just sad that this is the political environment we live in now,” he said. “I try to do something positive and in good humor and with purpose, and I took two years and someone comes along with a match and gasoline and in five minutes destroys a lot of my hard work. It’s sad. Whoever this person is who did it, they’re not much of a person. They didn’t do anything. Karma will come around. It will get them.”

And while Chess said he still wishes the sculpture hadn’t been destroyed, there is a silver lining to the fact that it has been: all the attention it is now receiving on social media, in the community and from other sources.

“I wish it would be a celebration of my art and not mourning its destruction,” he said. “But now that’s something that’s done and it’s gone. How can we use this to get a message out there?”