Video: Battered Point Woronzof statues will be removed next week

After more than four months of abuse from weather, water and vandals, the statues of the "100Stone" project will be removed on Saturday, April 9.

Artist Sarah Davies spent more than a year collecting plaster body casts from people affected by depression and other mental health problems, creating 74 human forms at a repurposed church in Spenard with the help of volunteers. She wanted to get more people talking and thinking about mental illness.

The figures were set on metal stakes driven into the mud at Point Woronzof on Nov. 21, and quickly submerged by the rising water of Cook Inlet. Davies' original intention was to have the statues sink under and emerge with the tides.

Within a few days, however, high winds, tides and ice floes had knocked down all but 10 of the statues, including some near the Point Woronzof parking lot where, it seems, the soil was too soft to hold the stakes in place. Cook Inlet has some of the highest tides in the world, 31 feet during the week when the installation was put in place, and the currents can be fierce as the tides change.

Photos: '100Stone' sculptures in distress

Despite having been toppled and displaced, most of the bodies remained largely intact. Davies' volunteers reassembled on the beach and moved the statues farther from the water and fixed them in place with stronger supports.

Throughout the winter the site was visited by occasional pilgrims paying tribute to family members who have faced mental hurdles, along with recreational users of the coastal park and partiers. In January, two people were killed at the installation; a memorial event at the end of that month drew a large number of family members and supporters.

As winter gave way to spring, visitors added their own touches to the statues. Many were hit with spray paint, but as viewed on March 29, some of the painting seemed intended to celebrate or honor the idea of the installation.

The bones of a skeleton were superimposed on one figure. Another was adorned with a bikini. Certain figures were holding cloaks or cloths that had been carefully painted with bright, cheerful colors. Many held flowers.

A shelf of ice covered in silt and mud ran like a quay between the figures and the ocean. Of the transplanted statues, 53 were still standing or, in the case of those constructed from the torso up, positioned as they were placed. Thirteen were reduced to stumps, leaning at angles almost parallel to the ground or completely down.

Six of the fallen pieces were clustered at one spot toward the north end of the installation, far from the parking lot access trail where most of the graffiti was concentrated. Gravel constantly slurried down the cliff above them. The circumstances seemed to suggest that a single event, probably an ice sheet, had taken them all out at the same time.

But not all of the damage could be attributed to nature, Davies said. Arriving with a bucket of tools to dig out any statue that might be trapped in the ice, she noted four standing figures without heads. "That's surely the work of vandals," she said.

In addition to those four statues, there was a fifth that had its head repositioned over its left shoulder. Along the beach, littered with beer cans and other detritus, were sculpted limbs that had been separated from bodies and little white piles of peeled plaster looking like broken egg shells. A few naked stakes jutted up; the figures that they once held were long gone.

The "100Stone" statues won't have much longer to endure the ravages of either the environment or humans. Davies said the installation will be removed on Saturday, April 9. Work will begin around 9 a.m., and volunteers will be welcome.

"We can use all the help we can get," she said. "We're going to try to bring out some of these in one piece. They have a purpose after this."