PORTLAND — Charlie Hewitt finds inspiration for his artwork in the simplest of images.


“These doodles are how I come up with ideas,” Hewitt said last week at his Portland studio, showing a pad filled with hundreds of tiny, colorful sketches. “From such a lowly spot, it’s not hard for me to end up with an image.”

His brand of shorthand grows into rich works of paintings and sculptures that have graced the top art museums in New York.

The artist who designed New York City’s famed Urban Rattle sculpture from such sketches is developing a similar seven-piece, whimsical metal artwork for a scarred piece of property in the city of his birth — Lewiston.

Called “Lewiston Rattle,” the seven-piece sculpture will be erected in the next few months at the vacant lot at 163 Lisbon St., between Ash and Pine streets, where a 2004 fire destroyed at least three buildings, including Marco’s Restaurant.


“It’s actually a brand for the neighborhood, if it is successful,” Hewitt said. “It should be like when someone says,”Where’s that restaurant?’ ‘It’s by that wacky piece of sculpture.’ I love that.

“I hope over a period of time it finds grace and elegance and integration into the community.”

Each piece is 5- to 8-feet tall and will sit on the tip of a 20-foot aluminum pole. Two of the images are inspired from paintings by Lewiston artist Marsden Hartley and a third is an homage to the Somali community.

Hewitt was born in Lewiston in 1946 and was raised in a New Auburn tenement in a family of eight. Family, work and community are referenced throughout his artwork.

Besides the image of a baby’s toy with the sculptures resting atop 20-foot poles, Hewitt said the tern rattle in his sculptures refers to the noise of the community. “The Urban Rattle (in New York) has the rattle of the trains. This has the rattle of the mills, the looms, the weaving,” he said.

The idea for the Lewiston Rattle project grew out of the series of devastating fires in 2013 that destroyed several apartment buildings. Hewitt attended several community events after the fires and hooked up with L/A Arts Executive Director Josh Vink.


“We were moved by his passion for Lewiston-Auburn,” Vink said.

The original plan was for Hewitt to build his sculpture on one of the properties destroyed in the 2013 fire, Vink said. When that failed, the vacant lot on Lisbon St., owned by Tom Platz, was the obvious choice.

The seven metal pieces, fabricated and painted in Portland, are completed. All that is left is for L/A Arts to complete fundraising for the seven aluminum poles.

What has pleased Hewitt the most is that the Lewiston Rattle will be built without government funding.

“It’s totally funded by the community and private support,” Hewitt said. “It’s going to private land. This is a successful collaboration.”

Hewitt has several other projects in the works, including serving as executive producer of the upcoming Muhammad Ali-Sonny Liston documentary film on the fight’s 50th anniversary, but his ultimate goal is another sculpture for Lewiston.


Moved by the famous Neil Leifer photograph from that Ali-Liston fight in Lewiston, Hewitt sees the image of Ali ready to keep fighting as a metaphor for his life and of Lewiston. His dream is to build an 18-foot-tall bronze statue of Ali in that famous pose in front of the Colisee, where the fight was held.

Because the Lewiston Rattle will be installed on a private lot, any new construction on the site would force Hewitt to move the sculpture. Nothing would make him happier.

“I think people can be satisfied with public art as long as it is not permanent,” Hewitt said. “Permanence means you have to live with it for the rest of your life, whether you like it or not. Temporary means we can argue over it. One big thing about these pieces, they can be unbolted and moved to the next location.

“Success for me would be the day it is moved to another site. That would be great.”

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