October 2, 2008

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Andres Institute at 10 years
New sculptures on the trails in Brookline

By Heidi Masek hmasek@hippopress.com

Anne Alexander finished her granite sculpture about a day and a half early. Most of her recent colleagues say three weeks is pretty short, though. She carved pod-like forms that look as if they are attached to the rock. One can sit on the rocks, stroke the pods, and reflect, she said.

Alexander said she comes back to nature, pods, plant pods, and eventually the human body in her work, so that frequently, her pieces end up looking like human organs. “I love to do groups of forms,” Alexander said. That way the sculpture becomes an environment. Instead of walking around the sculpture, the viewer is surrounded. The idea is to help the person become more aware of the scale of nature, and connect with it more deeply. Alexander shows in galleries but said, “My work looks the best outdoors in a natural setting.”

Alexander, of Windham, Maine, was the American sculptor invited to the tenth International Sculpture Symposium at Andres Institute of Art. Between Sept. 7 and Sept. 27, four artists worked at the Andres studio on a former ski hill in Brookline.

Paul Andres, an engineer and innovator, said he had allocated an annual art budget and had been collecting pieces by sculptor John Weidman of Brookline, who works internationally. The two worked together on aspects of Andres’ Brookline home. One year, Weidman said they should create a sculpture park. Andres started putting his art budget toward it, and Weidman started taking over Andres’ workshop. (Andres builds cars and bikes as a hobby, he said.) The annual symposium is how the sculptures are acquired for the park and provides a chance for the public to meet the artists and watch them work. The public is also more than welcome to get involved.

Andres put 140 acres of his hill property in trust so it will remain a sculpture park. These latest four installations will bring the number of pieces along the trails surrounding Andres’ home to about 56. He doesn’t own the work — “but so what?” he said. After ten years, Andres said now that he’s got the park going, it’s time for the board of directors of the Andres Institute nonprofit and Weidman to develop sponsorship and funding. 

While this isn’t the kind of symposium that has structured workshops or panel discussions, it does allow artists to work in a new medium and try new techniques. Alexander had never carved granite before. Usually she works in wood, clay or softer stones like marble or alabaster. She talked about experimenting with a torch Wiedman made that is “like a rocket.” It pops stone off, leaving a rough, natural look, she said. She only ended up with a little burning rock in her clothes. Weidman explained that kind of torch is used in quarries and is basically a rocket engine system; his uses propane for fuel.

Krina Flower translated for her friend Egidio Iovanna of Italy, a symposium sculptor, while they had coffee at Andres’ home. The symposium marked the first time Iovanna used granite, and his first time working in the U.S. He normally works in urban settings, creating monumental sculpture. 

Iovanna said his idea for his piece came from the symposium’s theme, “Reflections.” Normally, already we reflect on things in our life, so now this is reflection on reflection, Flower translated. His piece is called “Before the Kiss” and symbolizes lips the moment before they meet. That’s the moment with the biggest emotion, Flower translated.

Iovanna had the opportunity to use a chain saw fitted with diamonds for cutting stones in Brookline, which was new to him. That allowed him to make a lot of progress in only a few days. The energy at Andres has brought Iovanna to relax and he’s confident about leaving the sculpture there, Flower said.

Yasushi Hori of Japan and Vietnam said (using limited English) that his work has to do with the history of life. Hori worked with Wiedman at symposia in Vietnam twice. He said this symposium interests him because it is simple and organized not by a government but by the public. Hori attended Beograd University, and has exhibited in Poland, Yugoslavia and Vietnam among other places. 

Nyanda Yekwai of Jamaica and the U.K. said that she didn’t come with preconceived ideas of what she would make. She picked her stone and then had to “make friends with it” she said. “Because for me the story is in the material,” she said. Rather than building, this is “like excavating,” she said. Yekwai was mainly self-taught and sculpted for seven years before going to Middlesex University. She thinks she did her best work before college, though. Alexander remarked that Yekwai had not delved into the world of power tools before the symposium. Yekwai started as a wood sculptor, and later worked with stone. When Weidman told her the material options were granite or steel, “I was really scared,” she said.

Usually, Yekwai works on a piece for about three months. However, this was the first chance she’d had to work in a year, because she’s been teaching English to young adults back home in East London, with the idea that she could earn money for a studio. “This is a blessing to be able to come here,” she said. She appreciates watching the other artists; she likened the way Hori swings a mallet to Tai Chi — it looks effortless, she said. See Yekwai’s work at her Web site, soulvisionary.com.

Alexander is on a sabbatical from teaching middle and high school art at the Waynflete School in Portland, Maine. On the days when she’s home, she usually spends only the mornings working on her art, and the rest taking care of her family or other needs. While she was eager to see home again, another benefit of Brookline is that the artists can almost forget about real life for three weeks, she said. Volunteers normally bring food to the sculptors.

Andy Moerlein teaches at the Derryfield School in Manchester and participated in the 2006 symposium. He hosted a dinner with dishes from his native Alaska for the sculptors. He invited the sculptors to view an exhibit now at the Derryfield of pieces by Weidman and charcoal drawings by his daughter Jenny Page, called “Generations.” The public can also view the show between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on school days, at 2108 River Road in Manchester (669-4524); it closes Friday, Oct. 17.

The artists stay in local homes, and volunteers usually provide transportation. People in the community assist with installation, donate materials, lend equipment and maintain the trails. It’s always free to visit Andres Institute.

Weidman said he wants to maintain a noncompetitive atmosphere. The Andres Institute trails are a place people go to look for themselves, Weidman said.

Andres Institute of Art is at 98 Route 13 in Brookline. Call 673-8441 or visit www.andresinstitute.org.



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