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Friday, June 13, 2014

12-foot abstract sculpture to be moved from Nashua rotary

NASHUA – One of the city’s best-known monuments – although a monument that is often known by the wrong name, “the rusty clothespin” – is moving.

The 12-foot steel statue “Monument to Memory” by renowned Brookline artist John Weidman will be shifted from the South Main Street roundabout where it has stood for five years, said Mayor Donnalee Lozeau. The move is part of a refurbishment to the adjoining Rivier University entrance. ...

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NASHUA – One of the city’s best-known monuments – although a monument that is often known by the wrong name, “the rusty clothespin” – is moving.

The 12-foot steel statue “Monument to Memory” by renowned Brookline artist John Weidman will be shifted from the South Main Street roundabout where it has stood for five years, said Mayor Donnalee Lozeau. The move is part of a refurbishment to the adjoining Rivier University entrance.

The new home for the statue hasn’t been released, pending notification of donors who helped pay for it to be placed in its current location. The timetable for the move also is still being developed, although Lozeau hoped it would happen quickly enough that the statue wouldn’t have to be stored.

“We’ve been working really hard to try to find a solution, and we found a place that honored the point of the whole sculpture,” she said in a Wednesday interview.

The abstract sculpture has drawn praise and criticism since the day it was installed in 2008 as part of the inaugural Nashua International Sculpture Symposium.

Marjorie Bollinger Hogan, president of City Arts Nashua, has said she takes the long way to work in the morning in order to drive past its towering presence, which she calls “beautiful,” and since news surfaced last year that it might move, it has been praised in many letters to the editor in The Telegraph.

But not everybody is a fan.

Nashua resident Mary Ann Kobbs called it “rusty clothespin-esque modern trash art” in a 2011 letter to the editor, and earlier this week, the chairman of the Pelham Board of Selectman cited “Monument to Memory” as an example of what Pelham should avoid with its two new roundabouts.

“Whatever you do, don’t put up a piece of architecture like they have at Rivier,” Gleason told the Pelham town planner during a public meeting Tuesday, according to a tweet from John Collins, a reporter with the Lowell Sun who covered the meeting.

In an interview Wednesday, Gleason said he had taken note of the statue when he and other officials were touring local roundabouts to get ideas for Pelham.

“I wasn’t struck by it as much as I was taken back by it,” said Gleason, when asked his opinion by The Telegraph. “It’s not very attractive.”

He pointed to the roundabout in front of Nashua High School North as an example of the look he hoped Pelham would follow.

The rotary, where South Main Street splits off from Daniel Webster Highway, is owned by the city. Rivier University has offered to take over landscaping and maintenance duties of the traffic island as it refurbishes the main entrance to the college, part of $4 million worth of projects upgrading facilities throughout the school.

Rivier has taken no official position on what should happen to “Monument to Memory,” although computer-generated illustrations of its plans for upgrading the entrance have shown the rotary without any sculpture.

“They want low ground-cover so there’s nothing that calls attention away from the entrance to the campus,” Lozeau said of the roundabout.

“Monument to Memory” was one of the first sculptures to be installed in the city; the Sculpture Symposium has donated 13 pieces of public art to the city, including sculptures near Nashua Public Library, Elm Street Middle School and in the Rotary Common park.

“Monument to Memory” was created through a private donation from Davis and Pat Thurber, a Nashua couple who provided the funding in memory of their child.

Weidman, director of the Andres Institute of Art on Big Bear Mountain in Brookline and one of the best-known artists in the region, has said features like the curves on the top of the sculpture are meant to evoke the tough lessons in life.

“This is a very spiritual work,” he said in a January interview in the Hollis Brookline Journal. “The center part represents the spirit people carry through the lumps and bumps of memory. It’s a visual reference that people are affected by experiences in their life. If everyone saw everything I did the same way, I’d be a rather dull artist.”

David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531 or dbrooks@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Brooks on Twitter (@GraniteGeek).