June 11, 2009

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Art out in the open
Nashua’s second International Sculpture Symposium finishes at Rotary Common

By Heidi Masek hmasek@hippopress.com

For three weeks, the sounds of stone chisels and welding have come from a riverfront workshop at the far end of Ultima NIMCO in Nashua’s millyard.

Industrial machining and metal fabrication are main concerns of Ultima NIMCO, but the four visiting sculptors they hosted and helped during the second International Sculpture Symposium in Nashua were mainly interested in granite and bronze artwork.

Resulting public sculptures by Luben Boykov of Bulgaria, Michele Golia of Italy and Sarah Mae Wasserstrum of Israel were set to be installed in the new Rotary Common park in Nashua June 7. Brookline sculptor John Weidman is collaborating with the City of Nashua on a location for his work. Nashua gained five sculptures from the first such symposium last spring.

Seeking a way to get more public artwork into Nashua, arts patron Meri Goyette worked with Weidman to launch this community effort, and dozens of volunteers joined. Goyette heads fundraising and had aimed to raise about $36,000. The theme for this year’s event was “Future,” and the series is called “Footprints.” It ran from May 17 through June 7.  

This is modeled on the symposia of Andres Institute of Art in Brookline, co-founded by Weidman and its main benefactor, Paul Andres, in 1998. Visitors can explore more than 50 sculptures along hiking trails there created during the annual symposia (www.andresinstitute.org). Andres Institute is the umbrella nonprofit for Nashua’s symposium.

Rotary Common, across from Shaw’s plaza on Main Street was dedicated last September, according to Katherine Hersh of the City of Nashua. The Nashua Rotary Club had provided $100,000 toward completion of that park in 2005, on land which had been the site of the International Paper Box Machine Company.

Luben Boykov
Luben Boykov of Bulgaria (sculpturebyluben.com) has been a sculptor almost all his life. Boykov lives in Flatrock, Newfoundland, and also owns and runs a bronze foundry. Seven years ago, he worked at an Andres Institute Symposium; his piece, “Gate of My Faith,” is at the Brookline hill.

Coming to the Nashua symposium, Boykov had no preconceived ideas other than that he wanted to work with a local foundry and use sticks or twigs. In the evolution that took place, Boykov chose 12 twigs to use for patterns. Bronzecraft of Nashua cast scores of them, donating the labor and materials. Two local teens were models for body casts. Boykov used the casts to create molds, but mixed elements and sculpted additional ones.

He used the molds as a reference to create two figures from the bronze twigs.

“The stick figures are relatively generic ... they represent male and female engaged in this magical encounter. And this is the title of the piece, `Encounter.’ It’s about those very special moments in life when two people barely touch their fingertips ... that last an instant but also last an eternity,” Boykov said. The emphasis is on them barely touching, “to saturate this negative space between their fingertips with their presence,” Boykov said.

The six-foot figures will stand on top of eight-foot stone columns — the arch between them can mimic the arching of trees and branches in nature. Weidman commented that the posts raise the sense of humanity.

Sarah Mae Wasserstrum
Sarah Mae Wasserstrum of Israel has been a sculptor for 22 years.

“My maiden name in ancient German means stone carver. I didn’t have a chance. It’s the bloodline,” she said.

Asked about her style, Wasserstrum pointed to her artist’s statement: “I initially feared changing the outward appearance of the stone. Stone promptly taught me that its radiant spirit is independent of shape. The shape merely makes its spirit apparent.” (See sculpture-sarahmae.com.)

About the piece she created for Nashua, she said, “If you think of humanity as layers ... the sculpture grows from the ground —  because we have ancestors — to the sky. With a common denominator running through the layers, in the form of a root.” The layers wrap around the front and are pulled into a vortex.

Michele Golia
Michele Golia comes from Orvieto, Italy, where his grandfather traditionally worked in clay inspired by ancient forms, and reproducing Greek objects. Michele’s brother Paulo follows that path, but Michele Golia branched out into abstract sculpture. He has worked in terra cotta, marble and iron (www.tiberiarte.it), but used granite in Nashua.

Golia’s “Steps of Respect” has steps with differing textures. The steps are meant to be used to reach an abstract female figure.

“Respect means many things for many, many situations,” Golia said. For him, it can mean that it’s important to think before you speak — before you say something arrogant or negative, he said.

John Weidman
John Weidman is the director of the Andres Institute of Art in Brookline, as well as this Nashua symposium. He’s participated in symposia in Vietnam, Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Hungary and elsewhere (www.johnweidmansculptor.com).

Weidman’s “Monument to Memory” from the 2008 Nashua symposium is on South Main Street.

His stone piece for 2009 is topped with a circle that can represent a wheel, the sun, time.

“The whole thing relates to time and place. ... Things happen and there’s evidence of it. Footprints ... We go back to these places in our memories and our minds,” Weidman said. We are from our past, Weidman said. The texture of the piece transitions from rough at the bottom to smooth at the top, because we want to refine the future and make it better, Weidman said.

The piece is also “very much in keeping with my philosophy of design,” Weidman said.

On stone
Milford Granite Company, LLC, helped get Wasserstrum’s stone, which she said “was so majestic that it dictated its sculpture.”

“I love that stone,” she said. She’s worked in granite but not this kind.

“Not too many people want to mess with this stuff. But that’s what we got,” Weidman said.

“It’s durable. We’ll put it that way,” Wasserstrum said. “It has its challenges. But whenever man tries to work against nature, he finds that he gets re-educated, so it’s better to work with than against,” Wasserstrum said.

Wasserstrum doesn’t go to many symposia. She needs a good reason to close down her own studio, which Weidman provided, she said. A chance to work with this kind of granite was one, as was the philosophy behind the Andres Institute of Art.

A main reason was “the warmth that came through in the invitation, which was followed through by the whole community afterwards. We’ve been spoiled rotten. Heaven help us when we go home,” Wasserstrum said. 

On volunteers
“This community is amazing. Before we know what we need, they know what we need and it’s here,” Wasserstrum said.

There were about 100 people involved to keep the artists’ work site going, she said. “There’s so much care,” she said.

It ranged from volunteers who spread the word and bring visitors to the site to businesses that send skilled staff.

The sculptors praised the team at Ultima NIMCO, who frequently assisted. 

Concrete Coring Company is part of P.M. McKay Group in Nashua. Peter Bonnette, president, volunteered the time of two employees, including coring specialist Russ Huggins, to drill holes in granite for assembly. Huggins worked at the symposium last year, too.

“I think it’s kinda cool,” Huggins said of the project. It’s also an easy afternoon, working in the sunlight on a riverbank, he said.

Don Fitzgerald is a foundry supervisor at Bronzcraft in Nashua who took up Weidman’s cause. The bronze he used for Boykov came from leftover chips from the machine shop that they usually sell cheaply. Those chips can be dangerous to melt, since they might have oils and other alloys, so Fitzgerald melted them himself for the artist, rather than delegate the job.

Volunteers help with meals and transportation, and even house the visiting sculptors, as in the Andres model.

City Arts Nashua (www.cityartsnashua.org), Nashua Area Artists Association, and For the Artist are some of the other organizations involved. The symposium received a $5,000 grant from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation this year. Darold Rorabacher, president of the Andres Institute Board, is sponsoring a Nashua sculpture. Meri and Dr. Charles Goyette are doing so, for a second year.



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