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The gaze of ‘The Fisherman’s Daughter’

by Tom Chillemi

Sculptor Phillippe Faraut inspects “The Fisherman’s Daughter,” which faces the Cottrell house on Urbanna Creek.

Sculptor Philippe Faraut created “The Fisherman’s Daughter” to look out on Urbanna Creek; her anxious gaze cast toward the horizon as she awaits her father’s safe return.

The concept for the 8-foot-tall statue came to Faraut after seeing the property David and Christy Cottrell had purchased at Urbanna Harbour subdivision. The Cottrells’ ornate brick house overlooking Urbanna Creek can’t be missed when leaving town via the Newman Bridge. Their house was modeled after a St. Lawrence Seaway lighthouse.

Faraut spent four years on “The Fisherman’s Daughter.” He made a clay model, then enlarged it to half scale in limestone before carving the finished product out of 28 blocks of Indiana limestone, each of which weighs 500 pounds. 

“I wanted to do something for Urbanna since it is where I landed with my sailboat when I came to America. It’s a very attractive little town,” said Faraut, who sailed across the Atlantic Ocean.

“The Fisherman’s Daughter” was originally placed facing Urbanna Creek. However, due to the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act, it had to be moved back from the water, about 12 feet from where it had been first placed. When the statue was moved, the Cottrells decided that since it could no longer be fully seen from the water, it should be turned to face their house.

Faraut received his degree in woodcarving and the construction of French fine furniture from Germain Sommeillier in Annecy, France—his boyhood home. 

About 18 years ago, Faraut was living in Urbanna and employed as a woodworker building cabinetry and boats when he met Gay Jacobson of Middlesex. “She was the trigger when she asked me to sculpt a doll,” he said.

Since then, he’s studied, taught sculpture and created numerous original works.

He and his wife have created an instructional book and made DVDs on sculpting.   

Faraut explained that a sculptor must understand the 22 muscles of the face that are triggered by emotion and control expressions. “If the expression on the face is not dead on, people will know it,” said Faraut, whose trained eyes can see subtle differences in symmetry and volumes. 

He also studied the psychological aspects of the face. Anger is first projected by flared nostrils, that expand to take in more oxygen to assimilate adrenaline that the body is releasing, he explained. 

Eyes are the most important aspect in conveying emotion, he said. Smiling is an involuntary expression that uses muscles around the eyes, while a grin uses different muscles that are lower on the face and pull the lips to the side. 

Last year, Faraut worked on a forensic project with the University of Florida that involved studying different methods of facial reconstruction from skeletal remains. After providing him with a reproduction of a skull, university officials told him only the sex, age and race of an individual and asked him to create the face, which he was able to do.

He also works with law enforcement agencies to reconstruct faces.

Faraut worked with the Mayo Clinic to make a facial prosthesis for a woman who had suffered the ravages of cancer.

David Cottrell said he met Faraut after inquiring about one of Faraut’s pieces that had been on exhibit at the Trillium Gallery in Urbanna, which closed several years ago.

Faraut was then commissioned to do woodwork and other stone work in the home the Cottrells were building overlooking Urbanna Creek. They always give him a freedom to create. “Our joke between us was if I can think of it, he can do it,” said David Cottrell.

“I fully believe that some day he is going to be really world famous because he knows no bounds and he knows no fear,” continued Cottrell. “He will try to do anything in any medium.”

Faraut said he owes a large part of his success to the Cottrells. “David and Christy have been great patrons for me,” Faraut said. “They are always pushing me. They always want something unique.

“Every time I do a job for them, I think this is the last one,” he said. “It is rare in this day to have patrons like them.”

Faraut prefers working in stone to wood, because stone has no grain. “It’s like a block of hard sugar,” he said.

“It’s the process” of sculpture that intrigues Faraut. “It is very calming,” he said. 

Faraut lives with his wife, Charisse, and their two daughters in the Finger Lakes region near Rochester, New York.

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posted 08.07.2008

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