An angel emerges from a cupped hand in pure-white Italian marble. The sculpture is fitting in the Mitchell Gallery at St. John’s College in Annapolis, but it has much humbler roots than many pieces in the gallery.
Before its premiere at the opening of the gallery’s “Image and Imagination” Anne Arundel County juried exhibition on Thursday, Eddie Lavin carved the angel’s wings in a friend’s driveway. Before that, it was crafted in a marina.
“I’ve had some birthing pains, but here we are,” he said.
Lavin, 42, has been creating sculptures for the last two years out of a truck container at the Cypress Creek Marina in Severna Park.
His sculpture, “De Divina Porportione,” was chosen by a jury out of more than 100 entries to be one of 83 on display at the exhibition for the next few weeks.
After losing his job in San Diego, Lavin found himself in treatment for addiction, where he discovered the artistic ability he never knew he had. The self-taught sculptor eventually found himself back home in Maryland and making art out of the marina.
Thursday’s opening was Lavin’s professional debut. He shook hands with guests, flashed smiles and occasionally tucked a lock of his long, sandy brown hair behind his ear as he stood in front of his work.
Lavin’s pieces focus on man in the spiritual and material form, representing the imaginative self and physical self entwined in enlightenment. His statues are Lavin’s connection with an angelic presence.
Some of Lavin’s pieces are still sealed up at the marina until he finds a home for them. He said it’s been hard to explain his work to people while it’s there.
“There’s a huge chasm between people seeing it first hand and being told about it,” he said.
Georgetown University curator Lu Len Walker understood the awe of seeing Lavin’s work in person. She awarded him Best 3D piece.
Two other awards were given: Best 2D piece went to John Hanou of Severna Park for his digital metal print “Starry Night” and Best in Show went to Sally Comport of Annapolis for her painting, “Harriet Tubman, Song of Freedom.”
After announcing Lavin’s award, Walker told guests his piece reminded her of Michelangelo.
“He’s freeing the figure in the marble,” Walker said. “The witness, the purity. This piece is just transcendent.”
Earlier this month, Lavin spent six days carving those transcendent wings on his roommate's driveway in Arnold.
“I didn’t sleep and there was rain and a driveway and all I had was a chisel,” he said.
Lavin finished the wings about an hour before he needed to get the sculpture to the Mitchell Gallery last week. As he was loading it into the building, his cart hit a bump.
“I turned to open the glass doors and I heard a groan,” Mitchell Gallery Director Hydee Schaller said.
As the sculpture began to tip forward, Lavin had just enough time to throw himself between the 500-pound rock and the concrete.
After Schaller, a few staff members and a passing student were able to pry the sculpture off of Lavin, he was left with a scraped elbow, a few bruises and just a half inch scratch on the marble hand holding the angel. He could have fixed it, but Lavin said he chose to leave it for the memory.
“I was weak. I was tired. I’m exhausted,” he said, standing in front of his piece at the opening.
Cypress Creek Marina owner Allen Flinchum was among about 100 guests at the opening who saw Lavin’s work.
“It’s been a dream he’d been working on for a long time,” Flinchum said. “It needed more than a bunch of boat guys looking at it.”
By June 10, the sculpture will need to be packed up and out of the Mitchell Gallery. Lavin isn’t sure what will happen to it then.
“I am riding on faith,” he said.
Follow Selene San Felice on Twitter at @SeleneCapGaz.