CLINTON — Many people grumble about junk mail, then get on with their lives.
Not Pat McVay. He took a chain saw to it.
What’s up with that?
It’s pretty much how the dude deals with everything.
He wields a chain saw with the finesse of an artist using a paint brush.
His woodcarving of a man opening his mail box and getting knocked over by a deluge of junk mail is a fixture in front of the post office in Clinton.
“I tried to make it look like mail is coming out and not only burying the guy but strangling him too. It makes people laugh,” McVay said.
“The postmasters say, ‘We get thousands of items, more than you do in your mailbox.’ I guess it pays the bills at the post office.”
Art helps pay the bills for McVay, 68, who is married with a 15-year-old son.
Chances are you’ve seen or sat on a McVay.
He did the Bigfoot holding a cellphone at a Langley arcade and the 12-foot bat-shaped bench with a giant baseball in South Whidbey Community Park. The sea otter bench at the Seattle Aquarium is also his. About 200 of his carvings of fishermen, diners, waiters, gangsters and movie stars are on Seattle’s Piers 57 and 59. His work is in parks, plazas and eateries from California to Canada.
Around the island, McVay is just another guy in a ball cap and cargo shorts. He drives a banged up white 1993 Toyota pickup with the ART sign on top and 250,000 miles on the odometer. He got it more than 20 years ago in a sculpture trade with a flower-shop owner named Kate who would later become his wife.
“There’s still some remnants of ’60s flower hippie stickers on it,” he said.
You can meet McVay and about 20 other artists at this weekend’s Woodpalooza by the Whidbey Island Woodworkers Guild. The free show is Saturday, Sunday and Monday, with a reception 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts in Langley.
But to see the junk mail statue, titled “Deluged,” you have to go to the Clinton post office. It’s up the road from the ferry dock, across from Cozy’s Roadhouse and Dairy Queen. What better excuse to grab a beer or a Blizzard?
“If it was lighter I’d take it to Woodpalooza,” McVay said. With the stump and flagstone base, the sculpture weighs about 750 pounds.
McVay made it 10 years ago for a show in Bellevue that focused on recycling, then displayed it in a park there.
“I moved it to the Clinton post office because a lot of local people thought it would be a great location and they were going to raise money. They wanted to spearhead it to get public art in Clinton, but the group fell apart.”
That was five years ago.
“Since then I think everyone has forgotten that it is for sale. They probably think the community owns it and it’s public art,” he said.
The asking price is $10,000, but McVay will take $5,000 if it’s for public view.
“It would be nice if someone bought it and left it there,” he said. “I like having things in context. It tells the story better.”
A chain saw is one of more than a dozen tools he uses, including sanders and chisels.
Still, some see him as a lumberjack artist of sorts. “I tell people about all the different tools I use, then they say, ‘Yeah, he does it all with a chain saw.’ ”
McVay’s brother, sister and other family members are chain saw artists. His nephew, Steve Backus, has a block-long lineup of carved characters in front of his compound on Glendale Road in Clinton. Backus was featured in a “We’re a lot like you. A little different” Pemco Insurance commercial.
Many large-scale carvings by McVay are from already downed trees. The postal sculpture is from a Lebanese cedar damaged in a winter storm.
“The tree service guy took it down and called me and asked if I wanted it,” he said.
That’s where he gets a lot of wood, and he shares it with other woodworkers in the guild. “Some people make instruments, some make boats, build furniture,” he said.
Why so many woodcarvers on Whidbey?
“It’s not only woodworkers. It’s artists in general. People have shops down back roads everywhere here — glass blowers, painters, bronze people,” he said.
“It’s a supportive community for the arts and people that are creating things. People roll up their sleeves and do things here.”
Clinton resident Carole Falleen, a real estate broker, doesn’t mind digging through her mail boxes both at home and at the post office.
“Once in a while there is a treasure deal in that junk mail,” she said.