Lewiston artist behind an old city seal is creating again

·3 min read

Sep. 5—LEWISTON — Lynn Albert Leger only works with black slate from Monson.

One day, while driving a commercial truck through the town, Leger stopped for lunch. Monson, in Piscataquis County, lies along state Route 15 at the gateway to the Moosehead Lake region and is known for an abundance of black slate.

Leger found a piece of slate on the side of the road, and with a nail he had, tried to see if he could write his name on it. He quickly realized he could carve with it, and it sparked a passion for sculpture and etching.

"I said 'Oh my God,' and that was it, that's how it was all born," he said.

In the 1970s, Leger was commissioned to create a 3- by 3-foot slate carving of the Lewiston city seal, which has hung in the city administrator's office since. He also has pieces as far away as Florida and Germany.

Leger, a Lewiston native and veteran of the Vietnam War, has struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, and it led to a long stretch of years where he no longer created art. Leger said the Sun Journal contacted him about his work a few years back, but his health issues led him to decline an interview.

"I kind of gave it up, and stopped doing it," he said.

Most at City Hall just recently realized the artist behind the seal.

Leger told the Sun Journal this week that through counseling and other Veterans Affairs programs, he's been feeling better, and it's reawakened his art life. He's even begun carving and etching again, and he recently reached out to staff at City Hall about the old city seal.

"It brought back such good memories seeing it," he said.

It took him 122 hours to create the seal. Back then, he carved with a hammer and chisel and other hand tools. Now, he has a grinding tool that saves him some time. For some pieces, he also uses paint. He said white or pastel-colored paint on the rich, black slate "really brings the subject matter out."

City Administrator Heather Hunter said it was a pleasant surprise when she and other staff received a visit from Leger.

"We are so glad that Mr. Leger reached out to us, as his work of art is appreciated here at Lewiston City Hall," she said. "His attention to detail while crafting the municipal seal on the Monson, Maine, black slate is impressive, and his work is a valued part of Lewiston's history that is still alive today."

Leger said his commission for the city came about in an awkward way. At the time, his wife was trying to obtain a permit to operate a beauty salon at their Morse Avenue home — where the couple still lives — and the city dragged its heels because it was a residential area. Leger said his carving of the city seal was kind of like a "thank you" for finally permitting the business.

Now that he's creating again, he has an itch to show younger people the craft.

"I think I maybe have 10 years left of my life," he said. "If I'm going to do something with the slate, I'm thinking now's the time to, you know, put my pants on and do it."