New Artwork Coming to Rood Bridge Park
Artist Dann Nardi designs "Elemental Sequence"
Dann Nardi was impressed with the trees. "I can see you really love your trees here," the Illinois artist remarked as he toured Hillsboro during his first trip to Oregon. He was awestruck by the Court House Sequoias and by the many varieties of trees in the landscape. As a result, the trees that frame our every vista in Hillsboro inspired vertical elements in the sculpture Nardi has designed for an undulating, grassy landscape in Rood Bridge Park.
Nardi said "Standing in the park, I was so aware of the natural beauty around that space. The perfectly vertical trees are very characteristic of the West. I want to create a special space within the larger space of the park, a space that invites you to enter, reflect and connect to the larger environment."
Nardi was selected from 147 applicants nationwide by a public art selection committee composed of neighbors, artists, and staff, as well as members of the Hillsboro Parks & Recreation Commission, Hillsboro Arts & Culture Council and Youth Advisory Council. The committee reviewed over 800 images, along with letters of interest and resumes, and then conducted interviews of finalists before deciding on Nardi. He came to Hillsboro to see the site firsthand, meet the committee and hear what they would like to see as artwork in this well-loved and beautifully designed park.
Gwynne Pitts, Chair for the Hillsboro Parks & Recreation Commission said of the visit with Nardi: "I’m so excited for the installation of ‘Elemental Sequence’ as it represents both the river and the trees in Rood Bridge. The art provides an amazing area to interact and ponder in the park."
Nardi works in an unusual artistic material: cast concrete. "Common materials such as concrete and plywood have served as my medium to structure the work in various scales and contexts, to elicit architectural references and subtle organic complexities," Nardi states. The term "cast concrete" does not fully capture the beauty and elegance of his work. Nardi constructs precise wooden forms that are like sculptures in themselves. When pouring the concrete, he makes small batches with subtle color variations so that the finished concrete has color like the layered strata of limestone or the fleeting shadows of blue and gray clouds against the sky.
The pure forms of his work allude to the forms and rhythms of the natural world. For Rood Bridge, Nardi will create vertical elements like the trees that frame our view. These vertical fins cast shadows, marking the travel of the sun, the changes in the sky and the differing light of the seasons. Threading between the verticals are curving elements, low to the ground, which remind us of a meandering river or the ripples on water.
Nardi builds the wood forms for the concrete in his studio in Normal, Illinois. His expansive 1,000 foot studio is in the former cafeteria of an orphanage that had long stood empty until artists, schools and developers converted the spaces into new uses. In addition to building the forms, Nardi pours the concrete for his works, carefully mixing and blending the colors onsite. Far from creating designs for others to build, he combines the quiet sketching and modeling of the design process with the hum of the concrete mixer as he will spend four to five weeks in the park, mixing and pouring concrete.
This appreciation for labor runs deep with Nardi. He spent several summers in his youth working in a cemetery. Digging graves by hand was both a physical and spiritual connection to the earth. "I thought about the surface of the earth…its plane, the line of division between two worlds, two realities," he recalls. Years later, he realized that the monuments and headstones of the cemetery were among his first experiences of sculpture, with qualities of being rough on one side, smooth on another—qualities that have found its way into his own works.
Taking a break from college, he worked for four and a half years in a factory, assembling machinery. Now he can see that putting parts together in a sequence, being deliberate and thoughtful to create the whole, is the way he forms his sculpture. Creating his work is process-oriented, structural and meditative in being at one with thought and action.
Through the winter, Nardi will be back in Illinois, refining the design, working with structural and civil engineers to detail the plans. He will return to Hillsboro in July to build his sculpture, entitled Elemental Sequence. He will welcome people to stop by and see the work in progress, and to discover anew a very beautiful part of Rood Bridge Park.
Photos by Rick Paulson.