Driving east down Manorville’s County Road 111 after a long drive out to Eastern Long Island, you approach the 50-foot-tall deep red sculpture Stargazer standing in an undeveloped field on the eastern side of the road. Its design is obvious.
An enormous abstract deer is straining skyward, its mouth open and its eyes gazing at what it is trying to reach—an antler, or perhaps group of tree branches it wants to feed on. It was intended as a soaring tribute to nature and the environment on the one hand and the uplifting hopes of mankind on the other—so said its maker, sculptor Linda Scott, at the time it was built.
Since its construction nearly 30 years ago, it has come to symbolize your arrival in the Hamptons, the place where your eager ride out to the Hamptons ends and your official drive along the 60-mile stretch out to the Montauk Lighthouse begins.
It’s a time to turn to the kids in the backseat.
“We’re now entering the Hamptons,” you tell them with a smile. Millions of carloads of people have passed this enormous sculpture in the last 30 years. But not many people know the story of how it was made and why it was put there.
Indeed, it was not originally intended to be there.
One afternoon in the summer of 1990, Dan’s Papers got a frantic phone call from a woman named Linda Scott. She told me the authorities were taking down this big sculpture she had designed and built out on Daniels Hole Road in East Hampton, near the airport there.
“The Town says I can’t have it here,” she told me. “They are issuing me a summons. And they are demanding it be removed. I was commissioned to put this sculpture here. Can’t you do something”
I made some phone calls to the police and to the Town of East Hampton. But they got me nowhere.
“What’s the problem?” I asked the police. I didn’t even know what I was talking about.
“It’s 50 feet tall. It is interfering with the arrival of airplanes at East Hampton airport. It distracts the pilots.”
I later met with Linda Scott, an attractive, blonde, determined woman. The sculpture was down. Taken away.
“I have pictures!!” she said. She showed me. “I was hired to build this at the entry drive to the Animal Rescue Fund. It’s a deer. It stands on two sets of legs and overarches the driveway. It has to be that way so big garbage trucks can drive up and back. I don’t know what else to do.”
I told her I thought her sculpture was beautiful. I told her it was a shame they did that. I told her there was nothing I could do.
“Can you find me another place to put it?” she asked.
I told her I had no idea where she could do that. But I would certainly write about what had happened, and ask others to help, which I did. Keep in touch, I told her.
And it turned out she did find a place for it. There was a farmer in Manorville who owned a 100-acre sod farm by the side of Route 111, just north of where it meets up with the Sunrise Highway. The farm came right up to the eastern side of the road. He would be happy to have the Stargazer there if that’s where she would like to put it. Perhaps he thought it would call attention to his beautiful sod farm. Perhaps he just liked this crazy woman and wanted to help her. It is there today.
Every few years since then, Stargazer gets vandalized. Spray paint has been put on her. Holes have been punched through her close to the ground. The owners of a lumberyard donated paint so volunteers could over-paint the spray paint. Building contractors donated their time to repair the holes in it. Stargazer is made of a steel frame reinforced with wood posts and covered with plywood, stucco and paint. It has stood the test of time.
About 10 years after Stargazer went up, Linda Scott came by the office to show me little pieces of jewelry shaped like Stargazer. She wanted to have Stargazer or other statues of peace erected in cities around the world, and she wanted to sell her Stargazer jewelry. She was collaborating with architects Young and Wright and Richard Roth, she said. I wrote an article about that, encouraging people to contact her. I wrote further articles about Stargazer.
Four years ago, Linda came by to thank me for all I had done for her. I told her she was a good story and I would have done it anyway, but she just wanted me to know how much she appreciated what I had done.
A year later, Linda Scott died of cancer. She’d had it for nearly a year and a half and had not bothered anyone about it. She just had a lot of people to thank.
Her work has made a considerable impact on the world of the East End. She had a chance to see that before she left us.
So here it is, a piece of monumental sculpture in the wrong place at the right time and a study of the insensitivity of bureaucrats and the appreciation of a farmer nearby. Her former partner David Morris, who originally helped build Stargazer, arranges to fix up the sculpture when she gets damaged or vandalized and is doing a good job.
Hampton Jitney helped pay for repairs for a while. Now EasyKnock is its sponsor. If you want to donate, visit LindaScott.org.