It had been an attraction all summer long, a curiosity along Route 9 just north of Lake George Village. Master woodcarver Paul Stark has been wielding a chainsaw, coaxing a 18th Century ranger and five Native Americans out of a giant white pine log. Today, government officials, project sponsors, members of the French and Indian War Society, the press and an interested public gathered on Beach Road in Lake George to witness the unveiling of Stark’s life size canoe sculpture.
The project, a recognition of the area’s French and Indian War history, was conceived by Stark, and local residents Kim and Rod Cornelius, friends of Stark, embraced the idea. The Cornelius’s formed a not-for-profit, the Lake George Historical Arts Council, and solicited donations from local residents and businesses to fund creation of the sculpture.
“I would like to thank our friend and chainsaw artist Paul Stark for agreeing to carve this magnificent art piece here in Lake George,” says Kim Cornelius. “His initial idea and desire to carve a life size canoe with Indians and sharing it with my husband and I, created a chain of events that has led us here to this spot today.”
The sculpture depicts Robert Rogers, who commanded the famous Rogers’s Rangers, and five Mohicans paddling a birch-bark style canoe. Stark says he used portraits to capture the clothing and hairstyles. The intricate facial expressions of each figure rose from his own creativity. Stark consulted with members of the French and Indian War Society to ensure the historical accuracy of his details.*
Stark began carving in May and worked throughout the summer at a site north of the Village. Each day, passing motorists would stop to chat with Paul and photograph his progress. He says he must have met thousands of people over the summer as he worked. The canoe sculpture now has a permanent home along the Lakefront Walkway on Beach Road directly in front of Fort William Henry. Plans are in the works to erect an open-air pavilion with lighting to protect the sculpture from the elements.
“You’re going to see people here taking photographs every minute of every single day that this sculpture is here,” says Village Mayor Robert Blais, calling the sculpture a, “… beautiful gift to the entire Lake George region.” Cornelius says they hope to assist in bringing more works of historical art to the Village and Town of Lake George.
*According to Melodie Viele, President of the French and Indian War Society, the Society’s sole contribution was to offer advice on the correct depiction of the Native American figures. The figure of Rogers is based on a Chuck Hawley print, which is not historically accurate.