Mexico Point Park epic woodcutting of William Casey carries on through COVID

The May 31st festival, Celebrating the Arts at Mexico Point Park, was cancelled due to the pandemic, but the main attraction — a chainsaw wood carving of William Casey rendered out of a 3-ton maple log — was not. Above, master chainsaw artists Adam Mulholland, left, and Jon Vincent Artonuk take a rest next to Dr. Casey after completing the epic three-day effort.

MEXICO — It was planned to be glorious festive day, on which everyone could admire the new, community designed, stained glass windows in Casey’s Cottage (completed in September 2019), participate in making their own stained glass lawn ornaments, painting their own canvas and enjoying the lovely drum and flute music of the Native Immigrants, with food trucks and ice cream to enjoy.

The planned highlight of the May 31 event, Celebrating the Arts at Mexico Point Park, was a live chainsaw carving of William Casey himself, the sociology professor from Columbia University who, with his artist friend, Severin Bishop, transformed the carriage house of Mexico Point Club into an 11th-century manor house with carvings of Renaissance figures on all walls and stained glass windows. A stone fireplace acts as a sound chamber to amplify music.

Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic required the cancellation of Celebrating the Arts at Mexico Point Park. The Friends of Mexico Point Park had already located and hired an excellent chainsaw artist, Jon Vincent Antonuk, and received a grant from CNYArts to help pay for the carving. Kevin Gates of Mid State Lawn and Tree Service donated a massive maple log, large enough for a life-size statue of Casey. The Friends of Mexico Point Park had been looking for such a log for several years.

The log was cut last October and had been seasoning all winter, so it was already hard for chainsaw carving (usually done in white pine); if it were left to season another year, it would become impossible for the chainsaw artist to carve, officials said.

Since delaying the chainsaw carving was not possible, the Friends of Mexico Point Park decided to proceed. Since a public event with not feasible, the organization is sharing the experience of the carving with the public virtually through a video at their website

According to organizers, Gates moved the log to an undisclosed location away from the park, and with the help of talented videographer, Austin DeMott of Oswego, the process was turned into a movie. It took two very talented chainsaw artists and 19 chainsaws (of different shapes and sizes) to cut and shape the log into a life sized statue of William Casey sitting on a large corner bench with decorative sculptures depicting stacks of books at each end. Jon Vincent Antonuk worked on William Casey while his fellow chainsaw carver, Adam Mulholland, worked on the ends of the benches and assembling the bench. DeMott filmed the process for three days and edited the footage to create a six minute video (with music!) showing the transformation of an ungainly 3-ton log into an amazing piece of functional art. The finished sculpture was transported by Don and Linda Stein to its permanent location inside Casey’s Cottage, where he looks right at home.

When the central New York Region reaches Phase 4 of easing COVID-19 restrictions and it is safe for the public to visit, officials say Casey’s Cottage will reopen and people can come and sit companionably on the bench with Dr. Casey while admiring his work in the rest of the cottage. Meanwhile, watch the creation of the statue at:

Mexico Point Park is located at the mouth of the Salmon River on the eastern shore of Lake Ontario. It sits on 122 sacres at 120 Mexico Point Drive, Mexico. It has been a favorite local destination for more than 150 years.

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