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Hillsboro Arts and Culture Happenings

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The Artist: Dann Nardi, the artist behind "Elemental Sequence"

Post Date:08/01/2019

Dann Nardi learned to sculpt by watching construction sites. Atrist Dann Nardi standing behind a model of his sculpture, Elemental Sequence

A painter by training, Nardi was in the middle of a two-year, artist-in-residency program in Mattoon, Illinois when his focus shifted. Inspired by the building process, how it shapes and creates forms, he set out to cast his own small-scale objects using wood, Styrofoam and plaster. But what really intrigued him was concrete. 

“It’s such a humble material,” Nardi says. “The way it cracks and erodes is interesting.”

Some 40 years later, the renowned artist continues to work with concrete, forming the everyday material into small, freestanding pieces, wall sculptures and 15 large-scale, public art installations. His latest large-scale work, Elemental Sequence, is being created at AmberGlen Park on Hillsboro’s eastern edge. Nardi is there every day, mixing, tinting, casting and constructing with his material of choice. 

“That’s unusual,” reveals Valerie Otani, Hillsboro Public Art Supervisor, noting that artists working at this scale usually build the piece in their studio and ship it out or have an assistant fabricate it on site. “But he’s very process-oriented and hands on.” 

Otani convened the committee of residents, artists and City staff members who chose Nardi out of a pool of 147 applicants. The group was taken by the artist’s qualifications, his approach and, yes, his choice of materials.

“Most monumental pieces like this are made of metal or stone,” Otani says. “Concrete is unusual.”

After winning the commission, Nardi traveled to Hillsboro for inspiration. Based out of Normal, Illinois, this was his first time in Oregon and the artist was immediately enchanted by the light, the proximity to water and most importantly the trees.

“The trees were strong and straight and close together,” he remembers. “That strong verticality locked in with me.”

Back at his studio, Nardi built the over 200 wood and Plexiglas forms needed to cast Elemental Sequence. He shipped the completed forms out to Hillsboro, secured a small team of helpers, and started mixing, tinting and building the piece on site. 

A grand unveiling will be held on Thursday, August 15, at 5:30 pm, and will feature original dance by New Vision Dance Company inspired by the piece.

“I’m interested to see what they do with the work,” Nardi says. 

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