Bustins on Ice

By Vi Nelson


Artist Statement

The piece starts as a topographic map of Bustins Island, one of the many islands in Casco Bay. Bustins Island is special to me and my family. Growing up in Massachusetts, I would come to Maine to spend my summers on the island living carefree, running around with my summer friends. I could often be found barefoot exploring the woods or the shore. Sometimes I’d even find lobster buoys that were washed up with the tide. When I was older, I would kayak across the bay to Freeport in order to work at two different restaurants. As I kayaked, I enjoyed watching and listening to the lobster boats clanging around the bay. When the fog was thick and I’d be out in the middle of the bay, unable to see land with the noise of the lobster boats coming from indeterminate directions, it was so calm and peaceful. I had that world to myself until I got back into sight of land again. 

When I was medically retired from the military, I chose to come “home” to Maine as no other state or place has ever felt more like home to me. Now, I am able to visit the island with my own kids and let them experience the island as I did. Coming back after so many years away, though, it is strange to see how much has changed, how you can’t just stick a trap off the dock and catch one of the many crabs running around. The starfish seem to be just about gone. Even the clams and mussels seem to be less prolific around the island.

Below the topography on the sculpture lies an iceberg. The Gulf of Maine has been a hotspot for ocean warming, warming faster than 96% of the world’s oceans. As global warming continues to be a problem and more icebergs melt, contributing to the rising sea level, the islands all along the coast of Maine become threatened. 

Finally, the lobster buoys holding the island up speak to how the lobster industry is the foundation of Maine’s coastal economy. A number of the island residents are also lobstermen by trade. Lobsters themselves are also threatened by climate change. As the waters warm, the lobster population moves deeper and more northerly than ever before. While Maine’s lobster economy hasn’t been affected yet, those of the other New England states have been decimated by the increases in ocean temperatures.

“Bustins on Ice” is made from carved plaster with wood used for the base and repurposed wooden chopsticks for the core of the plaster buoys. It has been painted using watercolors and then sprayed with a gloss spray paint.


Bustins on Ice