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Stargazer sculpture that marks gateway to Hamptons not a sight for travelers' sore eyes

The Stargazer sculpture along County Road 111 in

The Stargazer sculpture along County Road 111 in Manorville was built in 1991 by the late artist Linda Scott, but birds and the elements have damaged it, prompting an effort to restore it that will cost $100,000 and take about 6 months. Above left, the sculpture in 2016 and, at right, on July 12, 2021.   Credit: Barry Sloan/James Carbone

Manorville’s Stargazer sculpture is in bad shape, its steel bones exposed after an August storm tore off its red fiberglass covering. Now an effort is underway to restore the public art piece, a roadside attraction akin to the Big Duck and one that marks the gateway to the Hamptons.

The sculpture was built by the late artist Linda Scott for the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons in East Hampton. Officials there would not allow the nearly 50-foot sculpture for fear it would interfere with the town-owned airport. Instead it was situated on a Manorville sod farm, where since 1991 it has greeted East End travelers who pass it while leaving the Long Island Expressway and getting on to Sunrise Highway.

"When they come out, they notice it and they realize they’re here," said David Morris, Scott’s longtime partner who has taken on the mantle of preserving her legacy. "They’ve made it to the Hamptons."

Scott died in 2015 at the age of 77.

Stargazer is a purposefully abstract representation, Morris said, and some people see a chicken’s comb or a creature with a bone in its mouth when they look at it (it is a deer’s head and it’s holding an antler).

The sculpture was built with a steel frame covered in plywood and stucco, a common building practice at the time, Morris said, but not one that has stood up to the elements. Woodpeckers have poked holes in the wood, water has gotten in and a 2020 storm tore off large sheaths of the covering.

Morris’ plan to rebuild the sculpture calls for stripping it, reinforcing the steel if necessary, covering it with pressure-treated wood and painting it its signature red. Upgrades would also include a proper drainage system and venting, which Morris believes will keep it strong for decades.

A crowdfunding effort is underway to pay for the repairs, and the Greenpoint, Brooklyn, nonprofit Arete Living Arts Foundation will handle the donations.

"It’s one of the largest public artworks on the East Coast," said Caesar Pink, Arete’s executive director. "Public art affects a wider audience than a gallery or a museum, which I think is particularly important."

The goal is to raise $100,000 for repairs, which Morris said would take about six months to complete.

Scott felt a connection to animals and nature, and when she was a girl would try to warn deer if she knew hunters were on their way. Morris said one time when she was a teenager, somewhere along the Peconic Bay in Southampton, Scott made eye contact with a buck just as hunters were on its trail. The animal leapt off a cliff, a fall she presumed broke its legs or killed it. She was wrong.

"She took a look over and there it was," Morris said. "It made it and it was swimming over to Ram Island [on Shelter Island]."

She channeled that moment into the Stargazer sculpture, the antler in its mouth representing a trophy for the victory of shedding one’s former self, Morris said.

"It was a symbol for her that if you’re an artist, whatever talent you have, you have to go for it," Morris said. "It’s like life and death."

A BIT OF BACKGROUND

Stargazer is along County Road 111 in Manorville, where it has been since 1991, and represents a deer with an antler in its mouth.

The abstract sculpture was damaged in an August 2020 storm and is in need of repair.

“The Stargazer is the connection of the above to the below. We are a conscious relationship to the universe. We are responsible for our planet and its future.” — Lindascott.org

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