This past Saturday, as fellow artists installed sculptures at Maudslay State Park in Newburyport, a man in flannel and boots tamped his goose-necked figures into the ground.
The anchored pieces loom at the end of a quarter-mile stretch of displays that will be up through Sept. 29.
David Davies — a Newburyport architect when not feeding his soul through art — calls his sculpture “Rat Patrol.”
He said that it’s a comment on our surveillance culture, his response to the theme the artists themselves chose for this year’s Outdoor Sculpture at Maudslay show: “20/20.”
What with the year 2020 around the corner, the art show marking its 20th anniversary and the sight metaphors the numerals invite, the theme fits.
A myriad of forms and ideas have sprung from the minds of participating artists.
When these folks aren’t sculpting, they are engineers and teachers, and librarians and waitresses. They include writers, a general contractor, a store owner, college students, children and professional artists — among them Bonnie Jean Malcolm, who is in her mid-90s.
The democratic spirit of the show, being unjuried and open pretty much to all, is its appeal.
The varied works express delight, whimsy, worry and fear. They provoke ideas and memories.
Sculptures stand tall, such as an untitled piece by Gordon Przybyla and Damon Jespersen. It’s assembled from ladders, piano keys and wood panels and culled from previous sculptures exhibited on these grounds.
Waldo Evan Jespersen’s steel sculpture stands even taller, a great framework that looks like a nod to geometry and structure.
Other sculptures ride low to the ground, swaying in the breeze. Helen Duncan’s wire-staked ceramic flowers, all 365 — one for each day of the year — make a garden in the middle of a green field.
Sinikka Nogelo, an artist from Gloucester, assembled a big, colorful, rectangular display filled with squares. In them sit a panoply of little plastic shapes and figurines that tell a tale about plastic, the environment and change.
Essex designers Jay and Lynne Havighurst installed their works by the park’s formal garden.
Maudslay’s lush natural setting complements the artwork. And vice versa.
“I love the way some pieces try to compete with the scale of the park and others allow for quieter, more intimate moments,” Davies said. “Both can be successful.”
The show is free. This Saturday, from 2 to 5 p.m., visitors are invited to a reception and tour with the artists.
Artists and attendees will stop at each sculpture, where the creators will speak briefly and field questions.
The Newburyport park, set along the left bank of the Merrimack River, is home to eagles and majestic stands of white pine. Here are 100-year-old trees, gardens, meadows, stone arch bridges, carriage roads and a reflecting pond.
Alone in a field stands a large headless figure in Victorian riding attire made by Rebekah Lord Gardiner of Weston.
Gardiner’s great-grandmother Helen Moseley and great-grandfather Frederick Strong Moseley lived on this land, once the Moseley Estate before it was acquired by the state in 1985.
“This is my tribute to her time here, where she would ride her horse on the trails,” Gardiner said. “And people today still ride the trails. You can be on bicycles, as well as horses. So things have come full circle.”
Nearby, Chuck Mead, a Newbury engineer, hung a funny-looking, interactive headset made from organically grown gourds. He suspended it from fishing wire so that it hovers and sags if tugged low.
This display, called “Alien Sunglasses,” will inspire countless selfies. Guaranteed.
Up ahead, just inside the entrance gate, Cailla Quinn steadied a ladder for her mom, Beth Proli-Quinn.
Above the rungs, hidden among big leaves in a grand-old maple tree, Proli-Quinn clambered over boughs.
She hung “eye” figures from branches. The Georgetown mother and daughter made the pieces from clay they fired in a kiln and glazed. They set them with imagery that contemplates different ways people see the world.
Later, after climbing down from the tree, Proli-Quinn said that she has a personal connection to these grounds. Thirty-three years ago, when she was pregnant with Cailla, she would walk in the park. On one of those walks, she thought of Cailla’s name.
Forty yards in front of them, Bert Snow pushed an end of his jointed wood sculpture, “One Thing Leads to Another.” It hung suspended, like a marionette, from a vintage oak tree busy dropping acorns.
When moved, the sculpture dances, flexing in different directions, a footlike extension pressing to the ground.
Snow, an artist and video game engineer from Newburyport, also coordinates the show.
He has been part of it for all 20 years, seeing it grow from 18 people in year one to the 50 displays in 2019, the most ever.
Creative spirits thrives here, Snow said. Volunteers run the show on a shoestring budget of about $3,000.
Pieces get built on-site, not in studios. Sculptors help each other. They lend a hand, a shovel or a ladder to their fellow artists.
Participants experiment. So long as their entries are family-friendly and do not harm the environment, the artists can express what they choose, Snow said.
And this, said Nina Tanis, a participating artist and exhibit organizer, is a springboard for inventiveness.
“The artists want to do it for the pure pleasure of doing it,” she said.
Another Maudslay sculptor, Michele Koenig Augeri, concurred.
“This is why we started making art as children — it was fun to make things,” she said.
If you go
What: Outdoor Sculpture at Maudslay
When: Through Sept. 29. Reception and tour this Saturday, 2 to 5 p.m.
Where: Maudslay State Park, Curzon Mill Road, Newburyport
How much: Free admission. Parking is $5 for Massachusetts vehicles, $10 for out-of-state cars.
More information: www.maudslay.ning.com