Have you heard any good stories lately? I did, the other day, down in Roger Sherman Baldwin Park, where I had gone to take another look at the large and wonderful sculptures being made right there in the park as part of the "Grassroots International Sculpture Symposium." The event, dreamed up and hosted by Greenwich resident Mary Gibbons, brings prominent artists from Europe here to Greenwich to create sculpture from scratch right in the park.
I stumbled on to the sculpture symposium when I went to the park earlier in the week to see Shakespeare on the Sound's "Romeo and Juliet," (excellent, by the way), and I had wandered around the sculpture site. When I saw the spectral figure that you see in my picture of a disembodied face on the ground with a long arm reaching out, I was hooked! I had to go back and find out what that figure was going to turn into!
I'm so glad I did go back, because that's when I ran into Swedish sculptor Kent Wahlbeck, who told me about a place in Sweden where there is a ring on a mountain, where, legend has it, the Devil came upon a group of musicians playing their fiddles while people danced. So the Devil stole a violin from one of the fiddlers and began to play so furiously and so well that the people danced and danced until they danced themselves to death. This left a ring of trampled earth in which later were found the skeletons and skulls of the dancers. His sculpture, "Dancing in Circles," illustrates this legend in a marvelous way.
You can see Kent in person in my picture doing a little dance with his much larger-than-life-size and still unpainted sculpture, and the face and arms of frenzied dancer that loom over him are the pieces that I had earlier photographed on the ground. The sculpture is multi-dimensional, however, and as you walk around it, you'll see the Devil himself playing the fiddle, a fierce dog, who represents a messenger between life and death, according to Kent, and skulls and other representational forms. What a great story and what a wonderful sculpture to illustrate it!
One of the very best things about this symposium was that the sculptors were working right in the park for several days and were happy to talk to anyone. They were enjoying each other's company and pitching in and helping each other in the most wonderful ways. On the first night I caught a photo of Javier Opazo from Chile, in a welder's helmet, and Dave Ruane, with heavy gloves on, welding a joint on a sculpture Javier called "Blue Peter," which he then went on to paint red! When I took this picture, the sparks were really flying, and I was amazed that no one got burned.
The second time I went back, I was lucky enough to catch a group of artists and assistants getting together to lift a huge square metal tube that dwarfed the six or so men who were struggling to get it to an upright position. You can see them putting all their weight into heaving it upward in the picture. I'm sorry I didn't get to see the finished sculpture for that piece -- it must be fascinating!
Perhaps the piece that most captured my fancy, although I enjoyed every one of them for different reasons, was "She's All Screwed Up," by Benny Ekman of Sweden. That's Benny you see looking at you from under the chin of his fanciful woman with flowing hair. What I love about her is her attitude (he had her sticking her tongue out, which he later removed) and the way her cheeks reflect the colors of anything near her, so that she always looks as if she has special make-up on. She was particularly beautiful at sunset when she had the rosy color of the setting sun high on her cheeks, and then she developed an aura of mystery as her face became flushed with the deep blue/purple of the night sky. I could be very happy living with her!
It was just a few minutes after sunset, when the sky still had a bit of light, that I caught Peggi de la Cruz admiring the lighted sculpture, "Full Circle," by Ben Rousseau of England, created in homage to Ake Larsson, the architect of the Ice Hotel who recently passed away. The sculpture was lovely at night, standing by the edge of the inlet, and I loved the way its soft light illuminated Peggi's profile, which you can see in the picture.
Mary Gibbons really had a vision when she started the "Grassroots International Sculpture Symposium" in Greenwich. She had met all of these artists over the several years that she had been working to help in the construction of the famous Ice Hotel that is built from scratch every year in the Swedish village of Jukkasjarvi, which is located 160 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Knowing that many of those artists were looking for summer projects, Mary had the idea to bring some of them to her hometown to give them an opportunity to create sculptures. They were delighted to come and all have been hosted by Greenwich families.
Their residency in the park during the Shakespeare production was a delightful coupling of the arts, but best of all is that all these sculptures are available for sale! Mary plans to donate one sculpture to the town through the Greenwich Arts Council, but you can find out about purchasing the rest by calling Mary at 203-943-4753, emailing her at email@example.com, or find out more about the project on Facebook at Mary Gibbons Presents Greenwich Harbor Arts. There will be a website because Mary already has plans for another sculpture symposium next year. What a delightful prospect!
Lee Paine of Riverside is a professional freelance writer and photographer. She teaches, lectures and judges in the photographic field. You can visit her website at www.leepainefinephotography.com.