The Hippo


Oct 21, 2019








Tony Jimenez. Kelly Sennott photo.

Closing ceremony

Where: City Hall Parking lot; free trolleys will take passengers to the sculpture site, the Lovewell Pond Conservation center in Nashua; parking is on 11A
When: Saturday, June 3, at 1 p.m.

Reunions and togetherness
10th Nashua Sculpture Symposium closes this weekend

By Kelly Sennott

 “Together” is the theme of the 10th Annual Nashua International Sculpture Symposium, an event that brings artists from all over the world to Nashua, where they stay with residents and create new pieces of art to be installed around the city.

This year’s crop includes Mai Thu Van from Vietnam, Tony Jimenez from Costa Rica and Tom Huff from upstate New York, who were also part of Nashua’s 2008, 2013 and 2012 symposia, respectively. Their 2017 journey began with an opening reception Thursday, May 11, and ends with a closing ceremony Saturday, June 3, at 1 p.m., at which time the artists unveil their masterpieces. 
During interviews at NIMCO, where the artists worked for three weeks, they talked about their history, their art, and their happy reunions in Nashua.
Mai Thu Van
Thu Van’s 2008 sculpture, “Moon Shadow,” sits next to the Nashua Public Library and has one enormous fan — a 4-year-old girl named Elena.
“Her mom told us that since Elena was 2, she has been really drawn to this sculpture. Every time she goes to the library, she says, ‘Can we visit ‘Moon Shadow?’’ And then she goes up to the sculpture, walks around it, and touches it. Even at the dinner table, she’ll randomly talk about ‘Moon Shadow,’” said Karen Wolfe, the symposium’s director, during an interview at the site.
Elena met Thu Van at the opening and created a drawing of the two of them surrounded by a heart. In return, Thu Van is constructing a miniature sculpture for the little girl, in addition to the larger one she’s completing for the city, which contains carvings of tiny roads, stairways and people. 
“When I heard the story about the little girl who loves my ‘Moon Shadow,’ I was very happy,” Thu Van said. “I have a big friend, and she’s 4 years old.”
This response is what the symposium is all about, said Wolfe.
“[The symposium] really creates long-lasting relationships and friendships,” Wolfe said. “It helps me to feel like this big, crazy world is really a smaller, warmer place.”
For this symposium, Thu Van brought her husband, painter Nguyễn Hà Bắc-HS, who’s there as a special guest courtesy of the Andres Institute of Art. He was eager to visit the place and meet the people he’d heard so much about, like Carolyn Cilley, who hosted his wife in 2008. He’s found the place similarly inspiring, having drawn 10 portraits of his new friends.
Tony Jimenez
Jimenez’s new piece depicts two faces next to each other looking happy. His 2013 piece in Labine Park, “La Familia,” follows a similar theme of togetherness.
“It’s different this time. I have friends here now. I feel safe here,” said Jimenez, who’s staying with the same host who took him in four years ago, Karen Goddard, who also owns M&C in Amherst. They became such good friends, she invited him back in 2014 to sculpt a piece to decorate outside her clothing shop.
“She always says, the first time she met him, he got out of the car, and it was like they were already friends,” Wolfe said. “It was a special connection.”
Jimenez works as a full-time artist in Costa Rica with wood, metal and stone. His parents are farmers, and he remembers the awe of learning how a tiny seed could transform into something beautiful, like a tree or a flower, or something delicious, like fruits or vegetables. Today, much of his art expresses that kind of upward movement, or the role of the woman, whom he sees as strong and powerful.
He’s been looking forward to returning to Nashua and leaving another mark on the Gate City.
“The other special thing is that my sculpture will be here forever,” he said. 
Tom Huff
Huff is a Native American from the Seneca and Cayuga nations, in upstate New York. Much of his artwork explores his culture, and this new piece, “We Are All Related,” is no exception. On one side is a carving of a face, representing his mother. 
“I’m Native American, and our culture deals with women. It’s a real matriarchal society; we are who our mothers are,” he said. “[The sculpture] is about how we are all related … The plants, the air, the water, the earth, the sky. We depend on each other.”
Huff participated in the 2012 symposium, and his “Turtle Island,” which was inspired by a rock he found as a kid on a creek, can be found in Bicentennial Park. He still carries that rock with him everywhere he goes. 
At first, he thought his calling was in geology, but he eventually went to study art at the Rhode Island School of Design and now teaches in Syracuse. The materials — stone, wood — remain important to his process. He sees things within them before he begins carving, which perhaps also has to do with his heritage.
“In our culture, we believe that all the natural parts of the earth have a living spirit,” he said.

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