Can marble be soft? Warm? Alive? It can, it seems, in the hands of María Gamundí. From the hard depths of stone and metal, she releases delicate and supple forms, all women, all serene, all beautiful and captivating.
And perfect for a peaceful spot at the edge of popular Mariners’ Museum Park in Newport News, Virginia. From an island built for her in Kettle Pond, Selene gazes out over the James River, with the beautiful park as her backdrop.
There is an element of “coming home” in Selene‘s new residence. The founders of The Mariners’ Museum — Archer Huntington and his wife, sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington — envisioned the massive grounds as a sculpture park. A few of Anna Hyatt Huntington’s works were installed — Conquering the Wild and the lions that anchor Lion’s Bridge are nearby — but the Depression intervened before they could realize their dream. Instead, they developed a sculpture park at Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina. Today, Museum Park’s visitors and neighbors enjoy a beautiful new piece of art.
It took a partnership to make it happen: The Mariners’ Museum contributed the site, the Newport News Public Art Foundation commissioned and installed the art, the City helped with logistics, and the community donated the money to make it possible.
Audio Tour: Hear Gamundí tell you about her piece
Hello, I am María Gamundí, a Venezuelan artist who has lived most of her life in Pietrasanta. I like to live and work in Italy.
My sculpture Selene is a 7-foot seated figure of a woman, carved out of Carrara white marble, which weighs about 8,500 pounds. I carved her in the marble studio of Nicola Stagetti in Pietrasanta in 2013. Her name Selene in Greek mythology is the goddess of the moon, and I chose it because she has a very peaceful and serene quality about her.
Many people are curious about her face — where does this face come from? I always like to say that in my country, Venezuela, we are a mixture of three races: Indian, black, and white. I have been always fascinated by this mixture and carry it with me, so when I am looking, working on a face, they simply come to me. I work on them until I see a spark of life appearing.
Selene represents an ageless woman who is at peace with herself, very calm. She simply enjoys being and is enjoying her surroundings. In today’s frenetic world — always in motion, streets, loudness — she invites you to slow down and quietly contemplate and absorb this beautiful paradise where she sits on the water, reflecting her image in Kettle Pond, looking out to the James River.
I am an advocate of beauty. I think beauty is important; to surround people with beauty improves the quality of their lives and promotes peace.
Artist: María Gamundí
Details: Marble, 7’ tall. Carved at Marble Studio Stagetti, Pietrasanta, Italy. Installed 2013
Site: Museum Parkway at Kettle Pond, near the Lion’s Bridge
About The Artist: María Gamundí
María Gamundí is an artist with a mission: to bring beauty into the world. “Art,” she says, “is about pure beauty and harmony,” and the corners of the world occupied by her exquisite creations are indeed beautiful and harmonious — delightful places to be.
One of the foremost figurative sculptors working today, Gamundí is known for her females — languid, soft and luscious, but also strong and self-contained. Whether reclining to catch the sun’s rays or leaning in to catch up on gossip, they are the essence of femininity. Gamundí is fascinated by the human body as the most perfect of creations, and those she sculpts out of marble or bronze are, indeed, perfection.
That perfection, though, is never remote. Gamundí’s figures beckon to us, inviting us to touch, to listen in, to wonder what’s going on behind that dreamy smile. She succeeds in her aim to create sculpture that has “a presence which engages and capture one’s emotions and cannot be ignored.”
Born in Venezuela, Gamundí came to the United States as a child and studied at the Pratt Institute in New York. Soon after graduating, she moved to the art mecca of Pietrasanta, Italy. Today, she lives and works in a village at the foot of the nearby Carrara Mountains. While her commission for the Newport News Public Art Foundation is her first in the United States, her work can be found in invitational exhibitions, museums and private collections in Europe, Canada and South America. In addition to her sculpture, she collaborated with her husband, the late Earl Nieman, on stained glass windows and other art for churches in the United States and Italy.
Gamundi’s website: mariagamundi.it
Gamundi’s blog: mariagamundi.wordpress.com