That’s the Spirit

Garden Guardians

By Caitlin Gilmet
Courtesy Valerie Mccaffrey

Can you find peace and joy in something as prosaic as concrete? South Portland artist Valerie McCaffrey does. After graduating from Maine College of Art, McCaffrey spent years sketching and painting before finding her true medium, which she sculpts into planters with faces like benevolent goddesses. Though strong and durable, concrete is also moldable when wet, allowing her to experiment. To make her Garden Guardians, McCaffrey pours cement, vermiculite, and masonry sand into a rubber mold and carves until a face emerges. The result is treated with acids, stains, and sealers to develop a patina. “Guardians are protectors, like gargoyles, but they also bring joy,” McCaffrey says. “My sculptures humanize the natural environment — they attract benevolent spirits.” From $45.