Chris Garcia is a sculptor who works with figurative forms in ceramics. He researches famous figures, paintings, and stories to recreate the people as characters in clay. He attended Bennington College for his undergraduate degree and received an MFA at the University of Arizona. After his academic studies, he traveled to many different countries,
attended artist residencies, exhibited work in solo and group exhibitions, and he has written for several magazines including Ceramic Art and Perception Magazine, A Journal of Literature and Art, Ceramics Technical Magazine, and Clay Times Magazine. He currently resides in NYC and teaches upper level high school ceramics, drawing, 3-D, and 2-D design at The Calhoun School.
Chris applied for the fellowship program at Salem Art Works to broaden his audience and work in a supportive and creative art community. He wanted to return to a rural setting and found inspiration from the local Salem Cemeteries. His proposal was to research and recreate local character’s buried in the cemeteries to retell their stories. He said “The graveyard dates back to 1766 and it remained as Salem’s only public burial grounds until the Evergreen Cemetery was established in 1859…
I am also fascinated by the potential inspiration from the Revolutionary Cemetery”. When he arrived he met with Al Cormier who guided him and let him to the local publication “Tales and Legends from Salem” which is illustrated by Heather Bellanca, and edited by James Alcott. With the help of the Salem Community, Salem Art Works, Al Cormier, and the abundant local thrift stores, Chris created a series of 8 figures. Each figure has a true story of a local figure. The sculptures and stories are on view at the Bancroft Library in Salem NY, located on Broadway St & Main St. Please contact us should you have any questions by calling
Stories and Figures by Chris Garcia
Tales and Legends from SalemThe eight sculptures in this series were inspired by the local publication: “Tales and Legends from Salem”, which was illustrated by Heather Bellanca, and edited by James Alcott with additional consultation from W.A. Cormier.
The book has several stories that I felt lent themselves to be interpreted in sculpture. For me, these tales really were fun to read and even more fun to re-create in clay, cloth, and other mixed media.
I would like to thank the folks at SAW for providing me with space, time, materials and support over the month of my Fellowship.
I would also like to thank Al Cormier for his generous guidance in helping me find these stories.
And, lastly, to the people of Salem for providing me with food, drink, entertainment, reading material, exhibition space and materials for my sculptures, and for always making me feel welcome in town. This is truly a special place that I will always fondly remember.
Dr. Asa Fitch
Dr. Asa Fitch (1809–1879) was a natural historian and entomologist from Salem.In 1838, he began to collect and study insects for New York State. In 1854 he became the first professional entomologist of the New York State Agricultural Society. This made him the first official occupational entomologist in the United States. Fitch is also known in the entomology world for discovering the Rodent Botfly Cuterebra emasculator in 1856.
In the mid-1800’s, there was a man named John Grimes who lived at the top of a hill. Down from the hill, there was an Inn that also served as a tavern and as a stop for stagecoaches. Old Grimes, as he was known, would visit the Inn daily and order drinks. A group of young men who also regularly frequented the Inn, known locally as “The Jolly Six”, decided one night to play a prank on Grimes. They plied him with his favorite drink until he passed out drunk. Once he was incapacitated, The Jolly Six sat him down on a bench in the center of the tavern, covered him with a white cloth, and then pretended that they were at a wake. As stagecoach passengers arrived, the group sang a song about Old Man Grimes and then paraded him around the Inn before the astonished travelers. The joke continued until Grimes woke up and returned to his home up on the hill.
The Witch of Salem
In 1777, Salem, NY had its one and only Witch trial. The alleged culprit, Margaret Tilford, was accused of hexing a neighbor’s cows so that their cream could not be churned into butter. The farmer consulted a fortune teller who told the man that the cows had been bewitched by “A short, thick, black-haired woman who had a red-haired daughter.” The description fit only one person in the small community, and Margaret Tilford was shunned by her neighbors and local children were forbidden to play with the Tilford children. Eventually, the church became involved and an investigation took place. There was never a formal declaration of innocence or guilt, so the Tilford family continued to endure the accusations and censure of their neighbors for the rest of their lives.
In 1777, a group of ten or twelve Native Americans working for the British made their way through Salem Village. The raiding party was discovered and two or three were killed before the rest fled. One of the Native Americans was an Iroquois chief who decided to take revenge on the colonists for shooting his men. He took a group of braves and killed a family as they sat down to lunch, and then later came upon Jane McCrea who was on her way to get married. She was in her wedding dress and was said to have red hair that was so long that it nearly touched the ground. The raiding party shot and scalped the woman and then traveled with her scalp to Fort Anne. It is said that at the encampment, her fiancé recognized her scalp as it was displayed as a trophy of war.
The Gray Man
The Gray Man is believed to be the Ghost of General John Williams, a Revolutionary War veteran and prominent resident of Salem and Washington County in the 1770’s. After the General’s death in 1806, there were numerous sightings that described a nebulous figure of a man dressed in gray. He usually appeared in doorways or descending a staircase. Sightings of the Gray Man continue to this day at the Salem Academy where students have reported seeing a mysterious misty figure in the halls of the school.
The Haunted Chimney
In the year of 1840, in a valley named Perkins Hollow, six miles east of Salem, there was a woman named Margaret Thompson. She was described as an eccentric woman in her early forties who was unmarried and lived with her family. She was a very large woman with a very big appetite. It was said that she could eat a full meal and then finish off a two quart bowl of bread and milk.One day, Margaret Thompson mysteriously disappeared. It was widely believed at the time that she had been murdered by her mother and brother. Tired of having to support her, they killed her and burned her remains in the fireplace. Neighbors had reported seeing strange black smoke curling from the chimney and the smell of burning meat wafting through the town.Her ghost is said to haunt the ruins of the home’s old chimney and that Margaret Thompson still roams through the swamp in Perkins Hollow where she is held responsible for stealing and eating cows that occasionally go missing.
Dr. Abram Allen was a local physician in Salem in the early 1800’s. After being caught and charged with the crime of “violation of a burial” he was better known as “Old-Head Allen”. A doctor in Rupert, VT had been called to treat a man who incurred a severe head-wound after a tree fell on him. Dr. Allen and another doctor from Salem were called in as consultants. The three doctors all agreed on surgery to relieve cranial pressure, but they did not agree with Dr. Allen when he recommended a second operation. The patient died three days later. Dr. Allen was convinced that the man would have survived if they had done the second procedure. To prove his point, Allen exhumed the body and severed the man’s head. He returned to his office with the specimen where he did a post-mortem operation. He was overheard by a local woman as he was working on the head saying: “Well that proves it. Now we’ll bury it.”Dr. Allen was charged for the crime and fined $250. He apparently gladly paid the fine, regarding the sentence as the ideal advertisement for his practice.