It’s a prickly little devil, with 6-inch steel nails that have been sharpened at the tips to replicate a real porcupine’s quills.

The needle-like quills are so sharp that anyone who tried to move the sculpture without gloves would get cut, said Wendy Klemperer, the New York artist who created the lifelike woodlands creature from steel and repurposed nails.

“For someone to take the sculpture from an airport … that seems pretty mean-spirited to me. I hope it can be recovered,” Klemperer said Tuesday, after the city posted a statement on its website asking for the public’s assistance in recovering the porcupine, which weighs about 30 pounds and is about 30 inches long, 25 inches high and 25 inches wide.

The city of Portland says the sculpture was removed from the grounds of the Portland International Jetport sometime in late March or early April.

Klemperer valued the sculpture, which she calls “American Porcupine,” at $4,000. It has been part of a installation called “Glimpse” – a display set up along the driveway to the jetport that also includes nine other individual animal sculptures of deer and a “howling wolf.”

William D. and Mary Louise Hamill purchased the collection from Klemperer before donating the pieces to city’s public art collection in 2011.


“It’s very upsetting to me that this happened,” Klemperer said Tuesday during a telephone interview. “The people of Portland should be upset as well because it belongs to them.”

After the theft, only a few broken quills and a hunk of rusty steel were left behind. The sculpture was secured to the ground by stakes driven into the soil. An art conservator noticed it was missing April 4 and reported it missing to Portland police.

Lin Lisberger, chairwoman of Portland’s Public Art Committee, said she remains puzzled by the theft because the nails sticking out from the sculpture are extremely sharp.

“It had to be a very determined person, who did this,” Lisberger said. “I have no idea why anyone would do this, unless it was to put it in their backyard.”

Lisberger said the theft hurts the city because it was part of what she described as an extremely generous donation by the Hamills.

“I have to admit, the porcupine has been very popular,” said Paul Bradbury, the jetport’s director. “People seem to have taken an affinity to it. Unlike some of the other pieces, it has a personality. “It may be made from nails and steel, but it looks like a real porcupine. It’s a beautiful sculpture.”


There are no surveillance cameras along the driveway, leading to the uncertainty about when the piece was stolen.

Bradbury said Tuesday that a traveler who flies in and out of the jetport on a regular basis told his staff that he last saw the sculpture on March 31.

Jessica Grondin, Portland’s director of communications, said by email that the city doesn’t hold an insurance policy for its public art collection. Damage or theft, Grondin said, is covered by the public art budget.

A Twitter parody page has been created for the porcupine, under the handle @PWMPorcupine.

“Guys, I’m not missing. Just had an early flight this morning,” said one of the tweets.

Another said, “It’s not that I’m missing. It’s just that my job was one of the 900 affected jobs Governor LePage was talking about (being eliminated).”


Grondin said she was a little surprised by the Twitter page.

“But I do realize it’s one of those ‘only in Maine’ stories that people can have fun with,” she wrote in an email, noting that parody Twitter accounts also have been created for other objects, such as a cobra at the Bronx Zoo that had gone missing, or Vice President Joe Biden’s empty podium at a recent CNN Democratic candidate debate.

Klemperer is grateful for the publicity surrounding the theft.

A similar situation affected her two years ago in upstate New York, when someone stole a 10-foot elk sculpture from a woman’s property. She said publicity surrounding that theft “shamed” a disgruntled ex-husband into returning the elk to his former wife.

“I’m less optimistic about getting the porcupine back, in that it is a much smaller piece,” Klemperer said.

But she said the more information that is put out there for the public, the better chances Portland police will have of recovering it. Klemperer said she is not sure what a thief could do with the sculpture. She doubts it could be sold on the black market and she said it would be spotted if someone were bold enough to plant it on their lawn.


There is currently no reward being offered for the return of the sculpture.

Klemperer whose studio is located in Brooklyn, New York, also has been commissioned to do art installations and exhibitions at Key Plaza in Bangor, L.L. Bean in Freeport, the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor and the Maine Audubon Society in Falmouth.

Anyone with information about the theft should contact Caitlin Cameron at Portland City Hall at 874-8901, or [email protected], or call the Portland police non-emergency number at 874-8575.


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