New sculpture coming to Oak Bluffs

Island artist Jay Lagemann brings ‘the Family’ to town.

The approved location of Lagemann's piece, the Family, in Oak Bluffs — Larry Glick

The town of Oak Bluffs will soon be welcoming a new family to its community. 

Island artist Jay Lagemann received the greenlight last week to incorporate his sculpture, called “The Family,” into the town’s well-trafficked entry port area.

Overlooking the water by the ferry terminal and fishing pier, the statue will be greeting visitors as they arrive on the Island by ferry.

Lagemann, perhaps best known for his creation and installation of the swordfish sculpture in Menemsha, has resided on the Vineyard for most of his life. Currently, Lagemann lives and works in Chilmark, where he also runs his Wild Island sculpture garden.

He said he hopes the family will be welcomed in Oak Bluffs as the swordfish harpooner was in Menemsha. “It’s wonderful when a sculpture becomes a part of people’s lives,” Lagemann told The Times in a recent interview. “It’s nice when you can do something positive.”

The mirror-polished stainless steel piece was initially inspired by presidential visits to the Island, Lagemann said, particularly those of former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

During those visits, “people would be by the roadside just to see the motorcade,” Lagemann said, as he harkened back to his own family doing just that. Imagined to represent Lagemann and his own wife and children, the sculpture quickly captured the imagination of the public, with many assuming it to be of the Obama family. Either way, Lagemann said, “It’s the American family in a wonderful togetherness.”

And Oak Bluffs is an ideal location to display that, Lagemann said. “Oak Bluffs is family fun.”

To complete the display, Lagemann added the leashed dog to add depth to the artwork’s story.

The dog is meant to look “totally uninterested in what the humans are interested in,” Lagemann said. 

Earlier renditions of “The Family” were composed of bright primary colors, featuring more quadrate figures. But for the Oak Bluffs location, Lagemann said he chose to create the family colorless and “in the round.” 

The fact that Oak Bluffs is the most diverse community on the Island was another reason the location sparked his interest.

The abstract stainless steel piece allows the viewer to identify the figures, but “they have absolutely no ethnicity or race — they’re just humans,” Lagemann said. The spectator “fills in whatever we want.”

And because of the smooth mirrored surface, when visitors walk up to the artwork, he said, quite literally, “you’re going to see yourself, you’re going to see your family.”

After first proposing the sculpture to the Oak Bluffs select board last year, Lagemann and the town’s park department worked together to find a perfect location for the piece. He said last year, as his team transported the work around town to see what spot worked best, the sculpture garnered a good amount of attention. 

“The reaction was so positive,” he said, “it just seemed like the sculpture really fit with Oak Bluffs.”

Lagemann, now in the process of working out details with the town to ensure the installation abides by the town’s art policy, expects “The Family” to be installed in time for summer, assuming all goes as planned. 



  1. It’s a stiff, flat and ridiculous looking cartoon that’s going to be a blemish on that sidewalk for who knows how long? Sorry Jay, you’re not very good at this. It really is ugly.

    • It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

      But to say that Jay is “not very good at this”and that “it really is ugly” Can only come (in my opinion) from a beholder with a sour soul.

      It is also commonly advised to keep quiet and have others think you are bitter or angry at the world, than to publicly post something so cruel and vile , and have everyone know it.

      Nice work Jay— Illegitimi non carborundum.

    • Art is subjective. Which means what you consider ugly may be beautiful to others. Your perception should not be stated as ‘fact’ Cliff.

  2. I hope some consideration is given to kids burning themselves trying to “ride” the dog. That happened with a sculpture in Boston several years ago. Some serious injuries.

    • chris— you can’t fix stupid. Even if it’s kids burning themselves. My daughter learned to not touch the wood stove before the age of 2. It was pretty easy– she never actually got burned.
      The nanny state can only go so far.
      But if a “kid” wants to “ride the dog” and the parents are either so “woke” that they will not prohibit the kid from doing whatever they want, get injured and then sue some government entity, . or so helicoptering that they will not allow the kid to touch anything, it comes down to a little bit of common sense.

  3. Give me a break. When you put something that looks like this in a public space you should be open to a critical review. There are time tested qualities to judge what is and what isn’t considered better or lesser attempts at creating a ‘work of art’. e.g. Sculptural quality: this piece is mostly flat. Having the ‘boy’ and the ‘dog’ as the only extra dimensional features hardly rescues it from this; as if they’re afterthoughts to lend an otherwise lacking 3-D quality to the piece. Sculpture should be visually interesting when viewed from different angles. Illustrative quality: They’re stick figures for chrissakes! Decorative quality: Sticking an element with completely different materials – the flags and dog’s leash – is out of place for the piece as a whole. Make them also out of polished stainless. The rendering of the females’ hair, the blank oval faces and empty chest cavities all seem as a curious use for no apparent visual reason. The piece lacks movement, balance, contrast or unity. In any educated opinion, the piece as a whole has no life, no real feel of dimensional action, it’s stiff and cartoonish. Google ‘stainless steel figure sculptures’ to see what quality sculpture looks like. C.Barnsley Mass. Art ’74 BFA sculpture.

    • You must really dislike Picasso and Van Gogh.
      But ok– you can have your opinion. We all have one–

    • This is an extremely narrow and flawed view of what constitutes “good” art. Note that Jay is the creator of one of the most iconic symbols of the island. His sculpture of the harpooner has been photographed and admired more than the works of many well known sculptors in museums. Your educational credentials make it even harder to believe you would publicly criticize a fellow artist in such a way.
      S. Terry, Swain School of Design, 1976 BFA Printmaking, 1978 MFA Painting

  4. People pay lots of money for an unobstructed view of the ocean and here in OakBluffs we get ours for free! I’d hate to lose it. Still, if OB has a taste for public art let it be an Open Competition for the Honor.

    • Jean–For some reason, I doubt that this sculpture will significantly obstruct the view of the ocean.

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