Italian American Digest DIGEST Winter 2017 Final - Page 16

I talian A merican D igest PAGE 16 WINTER 2017 Local Sculptor Honors Italian Laborers of Kenner U by Enrico Villamaino III nveiled on April 14, the statue Kenner Farmer is the culmina- tion of over seven months of work by Gretna-born sculptor H. Grace Boyle. The statue is a tribute to the hardworking men and women who emigrated from Italy and made Ken- ner their home. Boyle got her start sculpting in a small studio while still an undergrad- uate at the University of New Or- leans, where she earned her degree in chemistry. “It all began with a clean clay piece I made called Lovers’ Hands. I made it for a man. I was in love!” She ebulliently sees the Ken- ner Farmer statue as her big break after “toiling away in obscurity for 20 years.” Prior to this 9-foot-tall work, Boyle had never worked on a sculp- ture over 3 feet tall, but she quickly pointed out, “I’m ambitious!” Boyle demonstrated that ambi- tion when she wrote a letter to local real estate mogul, art collector, and philanthropist Henry Shane, looking for an opportunity. Shane had re- cently commissioned over 20 sculp- tures to beautify Kenner. This led to Boyle being asked by Nick and Louis Above: Unveiled in April, Kenner Farmer is the work of Gretna-born sculptor H. Grace Boyle. Left: Boyle poses with her aluminum sculpture Running by the Lake in the Sun. Cangemi of Kenner if she would cre- ate a large sculpture dedicated to the migrant workers who helped make Kenner the community it is today. “I did not even think it over. I gave them an immediate yes,” Boyle said. While not using any one subject or image for inspiration, Boyle credits Sal Serio, Custodian of the Italian American Research Library at Jeffer- son Parish’s East Bank Regional Li- brary, with providing her with count- less vintage photographs and images. She then attempted to “synthesize” these sources into one comprehensive and expressive piece. The undertaking was not without its challenges. Boyle chose not to work with a model; instead, she de- cided to “freestyle it.” She explained, “I originally tried using a mixture of Portland cement, marble dust, and additive fibers. But it just didn’t work. I also tried using a steel frame. That didn’t work either. I eventually used a stucco mix with more lime. There was really no consistent batch; it was always a bit different.” Now firmly settled in at her stu- dio on Clio Street in New Orleans, surrounded by stone, metal, glass, and synthetics, Boyle is busily ex- perimenting with her new project, a sculpture commissioned by Shane. It will be called Running by the Lake in the Sun. It is a mass of curved alumi- num that will be outfitted with glass bottles she has modified. At over 11 feet tall, it will be her largest sculp- ture to date. As for her future, Boyle said, “I’d really like to work more with marble. It’s not easy. Working with marble is long, and frustrating, and hard on the body. But there’s just something about it.” As for the subject matter of her future creations, Boyle summed it up succinctly: “I’ll just wing it.” Boyle’s work can be viewed at www.hgraceboyle.com.