‘Introspection’ – Theme for 2021 Nashua International Sculpture Symposium

The 14th annual Nashua International Sculpture Symposium has announced its theme for 2021 –  “Introspection” – which will be represented in the completed works of three invited artists, who will create their pieces and leave them here as gifts to the city.

Local art lovers can meet and visit with the artists during their work hours at the Picker Artists Studios, 3 Pine St. ext. They will create from 10 am–4 pm, Mondays through Saturdays during their May 24–June 8 work period.

An opening ceremony will be held at 5:30 pm Thursday, May 20; the closing ceremony is at 1 pm Saturday, June 12. Both events will be held at 14 Court Street, which will be the site for the finished works to reside. These events will also be streamed on Access Nashua Community Television, Channel 96, viewable following the event, and available on the NISS Facebook page and YouTube channel.

An artist talk is planned for the first week of the Symposium, as well as special activities for children, both of which will be held outdoors (details and dates TBD). Additionally, through the end of May, the public is invited to participate in the art project “1,000 Cranes for Nashua,” creating 1,000 paper cranes which will be on display at St. Joseph Hospital. Grab your kit at the Picker Artists building and return completed cranes to them. Check out this fun video on folding cranes!  

ABOVE: Paper cranes are being created by Nashuans, with the goal of 1,000. They will be displayed at St. Joseph Hospital.

The Introspection theme

Like many of us, the artists participating this year have had to largely be isolated from others due to COVID-19 quarantine. Even if they do work alone, artists usually have a chance to show and exhibit their work and converse with others; not during the pandemic. 

With the Introspection theme, the Symposium asks the artists to contextualize the thought processes from the past year within their isolation. “These are almost necessarily ideas of introspection that came about while working alone during the past year,” said Jim Larson, NISS Artistic Director. “The symposium is a chance for these three artists to take these ideas and reframe them within the public realm.”

He also noted that this year’s art will echo the history of stone cutting practices of our state. “Through the ongoing and innovative practice of working stone, the Symposium preserves and builds upon the living history of stonework in New Hampshire.”

A new artistic experience

Both artists and audiences will emerge from isolation, as the Symposium brings us together to interact. The artists will be working  near one another and be able to confer together and look at one others’ work. For some of them, this will be a new experience of working on a piece of art outside and in public, as though they are on a stage, which the studio setting will resemble. Some will also be creating a large piece for outdoor display for the first time, as well.

Even the tools may be different for some of the artists for this project. In fact, Larson and at least one of the artists will be building a diamond wire saw to use during the Symposium. He explained that the braided steel cable will have diamond beads, and be able to cut stone in the same way a bandsaw cuts wood. This is usually a very expensive machine. The diamond wire saw itself is just another tool, but what it does and says about public art is what is so significant. “A machine like this is usually inaccessible to the humble artist. To have this available to the artists allows them to speak with a wider vocabulary of action, and to make more efficient use of their time, energy and enthusiasm,” Larson said. “Ultimately, they can make work that more easily follows their intuition and intention.” 

Larson says he is grateful to donors for providing the means to build this machine. “The generosity of our donors says, ‘I think this is worth my time, investment, and my money towards my community.’  With their support, they say, public art is worth it.” 

Another way to help is to purchase limited edition “Introspection” t-shirts and “Art Lives” cotton tote bags; proceeds help the Symposium obtain needed materials and tools, and aid its plans to expand artmaking opportunities for children throughout the year.

TOP RIGHT: Art Lives tote bags can be purchased
to assist the Symposium in raising funds for supplies.

BOTTOM RIGHT: A 6-ton slab of Danby, Vermont white marble
is shown being delivered to Picker Artists Studios for the sculptors.

About the Symposium

Since 2008, The Nashua International Sculpture Symposium has presented an annual multi-week spring sculpture-making event in the city of Nashua. Artists are invited from around the world to take part. They spend three weeks in Nashua creating public art which they leave here in outdoor places and spaces for Nashuans to enjoy for years to come. 

Residents also can get involved in the symposium by volunteering to host the artists (in non-COVID years), provide meals and transportation, or just spend time with the artists as they work. The artists learn how to create large-scale sculpture pieces while educating audiences about their own artmaking techniques, cultures and backgrounds.

The public is invited to participate in 2021 by bringing a meal, volunteering at the site, or simply by coming by to watch them work and keep them company. When visiting, it is important to stay back from the artists, due to machinery and tools in use, dust and particles from the stone-cutting, as well as to comply with pandemic protocols, including wearing masks and practicing physical distancing.

To see images and locations of all past sculptures, information on sponsoring a sculpture, how to help provide meals and more, visit the NISS website HERE.

The 2021 Symposium artists:

Gavin Kenyon – of New York. Mass, tension, balance, membranes, surface quality and color; working at the limits of materials with an attention to how matter behaves under stress; finding equilibrium in failure; the abject position – These strategies and elements are used in Kenyon’s sculptures, to speak of the frailty of bodies, loss, isolation and psychological repression on one hand, as well as connection, care and the tenacity of life on the other. 

Nora Valdez –  Originally from Argentina, now based in Boston. Valdez uses sculpture and installations to create images that reflect on the nature of change. Most recently, her work has focused on the nature of home and the immigrant experience. Her thematic concerns are also reflected in her involvement with the community.

Sam Finkelstein – Based in Rockland, Maine, born in New York City. Finkelstein’s work centers on the human body as the link between the psychic states of ever-accelerating metropolitan centers and those of more time-expansive pastoral landscapes. This exploration manifests in sculpted stone, poetry, drawings, and music. Finkelstein is interested in his work primarily registering on a nonverbal level – something rooted in a primordial, energetic collective knowledge that we share with plants, trees, fellow animals, and the heavenly bodies of the cosmos.

Jim Larson – Artistic Director, Nashua International Sculpture Symposium, New Hampshire native from Contoocook. Larson is an interdisciplinary artist whose work seeks to explore and expand methods of art creation and presentation. With a background in New Hampshire’s tradition of craft, his work synthesizes the handmade/the real with our contemporary digital cultural practice.  Larson’s work objectifies our daily digital-to-physical, physical-to-digital translations, and he works to present a more broadly accessible version of art exhibition. Alongside his artistic practice, Larson regularly organizes public showings of artwork to provide exposure for young artists within their local communities. These shows attempt to present work outside the influence of for-profit initiatives, and correspondingly they contain work that likely would not be shown in a for-profit setting. This is his third year as Artistic Director of NISS.

Photos:  Courtesy photos of Gavin Kenyon, Nora Valdez, Sam Finkelstein. Photo of Jim Larson by Allegra Boverman/City Arts Nashua.

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