The creation of Stella Maris, Hamarøy's beautiful and mythical sculpture in the belt between high and low tide, was a long and difficult process.
A unanimous culture board supported Hamarøy's participation in Artscape Nordland, but the project was rejected by the municipal council. A new attempt the next year, in June 1991, met the same fate: Both the executive board and the council turned it down.
Many believed the final word had been said on the matter, but regional collaborative projects with plans to establish a cultural route got the ball rolling again. In the discussion of extending the Coastal Route to Hamarøy, focusing on cultural and natural sights along the way, arguments in favour of the sculpture as a tourist attraction won out against the opposition. In the spring of 1993, policy-makers discussed the project for the third time, and Hamarøy finally said yes. A central argument in favour of participating was that the artist, Steinar Christensen, had roots in Hamarøy.
A few months later, when Christensen introduced his first draft, entitled “Drying racks”, to the local community, the response was overwhelmingly positive. Finally, the circumstances seemed right for making headway with the project. Other art interests, however, claimed copyright violations and demanded “Drying racks” be stopped. In late 1994/early 1995, the plans were put on hold, and the local enthusiasm began to fade.
A new project would soon replace the original one, however. The municipality and county council took swift and decisive action, and thanks to Christensen's strong creativity, the Hamarøy community was presented with a new and intriguing—and completely different—sculpture concept after just a couple of months: the Stella Maris.
The immediate response was a little more reserved this time around, but the scepticism soon gave way to support, and even enthusiasm, from many groups, especially the technical staff and tradesmen who participated in the installation, gaining a better insight into the artwork.
With the creative process taking place this close to home, the local population developed a special attachment to the sculpture.
Following an intensive and hectic installation period in the summer of 1994, the Stella Maris was unveiled by Member of Parliament Kirsti Kolle Grøndahl during the Hamsun Days festival in August that same year.
by Helga Wiik, former Cultural Director in the Municipality of Hamarøy
PRESS RELEASE (1994)
“On Monday 8 August, at 2:00 p.m., author Kim Småge will host the unveiling of Steinar Christensen's sculpture “Stella Maris” at Skutvik on Hamarøy, where the sculptor lived for part of his childhood.
The “Stella Maris” incorporates stars made from aluminium and steel, the neck of a violin made from Lødingen granite, and a chalice made from steel. The sculpture is located in the tidal range near the breakwater at Skutvik. [...]
Steinar Christensen is part of a generation of Norwegian artists who, in the 1980s started to redefine the sculptural expression. At the same time, artists started incorporating new materials and solutions to comment on relevant social issues.
Steinar Christensen has been particularly active in environmental issues, and he comments on the threat our modern lifestyle poses for the ecological balance.