First, there were the signs, spread around campus. “Have you seen me?” they asked, next to a sea monster’s silhouette. Then, in the dead of night, a tail appeared in St. John’s pond. As the rest of the monster was assembled, the sculpture the artist prefers to call “St. Messie” became a conversation starter around campus.
St. Messie (the name is a combination of St. Mary’s and Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster) was a project for an advanced sculpture class taught by professor Lisa Scheer.
“I charge the students to think up a way to create a sculpture that enhances an audience’s interactivity with it. Students can interpret that in a lot of different ways,” said Scheer.
“You can imagine how this sculpture could have just been like any sculpture that anyone put up. I would hope that some of the reason that it’s getting this sort of response is that the artist included all these ways to make it more interactive…as opposed to just presenting it as a given. I think the other thing about it is that [the artist] specifically chose something like the sea monster that is purposefully fun.”
According to the artist, who wishes to remain anonymous, the pond was chosen as the installation site because, “It’s right at the crossroads since everyone sees it. There are creatures in the pond but it’s really murky so you don’t really know what lives in there.”
The sea monster was assembled slowly in order to increase the interaction between audience and sculpture.
“This is the first time I’ve done something really public,” the artist said. “I think it added some character to the pond.”
In order to preserve anonymity, the artist installed the piece during low tide, at about three or four in the morning. “One of my friends helped me, but it was pretty hard because the mud is so thick and your feet get stuck in it when you step in it. We got stopped by [public safety] once because they were kind of confused about what we were doing,” the artist said.
The project received a lot more attention than expected. After the artist created a Facebook page called, “St. Mary’s Sea Monster?” current College students and alumni began a discussion thread about the monster’s name. Proposed names have included Alejandro, St. Messe, St. Messie, Johnny, Noah, Chessie (later clarified to be the Chesapeake Bay monster), the St. Mary’s Sea Monster, and Jessie.
“I think its name should be Noah because St. Mary’s City is famous for the Ark and Dove ships, as in Noah’s Ark and the dove that let them know the water was receding,” said Hannah Werme, one of the students who commented on the page. As of March 27, “St. Mary’s Sea Monster?” had 204 fans. The sculpture’s appearance was also recognized on Ken Benjes’ blog, SMCMLOL.
At least one student has met the monster in person. According to first-year Zach Etsch, “On March 10 right after my friends ponded me, I went out to do battle with the sea serpent, whose name, I was told as a reward for victory, was “Ursula.”
The campus community should keep an eye out for the sea monster’s return. “I’d definitely like to bring it back,” the artist said. “Possibly move it around the pond, like have it travel.”