July 23, 2008
Marianne Weil: Sculpting A Legacy
"The seed is in the ground. Now may we rest in hope."
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This line of poetry, written by Wendell Berry, was the inspiration for Seed, a bronze monument by Orient sculptor Marianne Weil. Commissioned by the Sisters of St. Dominic of Amityville, it will be installed on the west end of the Water Mill Village Green later this summer.
The work is a commemoration of the Sisters' 75 years of stewardship of the land, as well as their longtime commitment to the community as a spiritual center in the heart of the village. The Village Green was donated to Water Mill when they departed the area in 2005 – and Seed will stand as a lasting legacy of their years of heartfelt dedication to the community.
"The inspiration for Seed is to mark the varied and multiple contributions of our congregation, our ministry to God's people and our stewardship of the land," said Sister Mary Hughes, O.P., Prioress of the Amityville Dominican Sisters. "In keeping with the 800-year-old tradition of the Worldwide Dominicans, the symbol, the seed, speaks also of preaching the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It declares, 'May the preaching continue!'"
To create their vision, the Sisters selected Weil from a group of artists who submitted proposals in 2005.
Trained in Italy, Weil is internationally recognized for her abstract bronze sculptures. Weil, who has a BA in sculpture from Goddard College and an MFA in sculpture from the School of Visual Arts, has been the recipient of numerous awards and grants and is represented by Art Sites Gallery in Riverhead and Kouros Gallery in New York City. She also teaches sculpture at Haverford College outside Philadelphia.
"Seed captures the metaphor of seed planting," said Weil. "An open pod in two still-connected halves suggests fertilization of the seed in the ground and the promise of continued introspection and intellectual activity. The sculpture's surface texture emulates the promise and energy of nature's collaboration with sky, water and Earth. This pattern symbolizes the passage of time, streams and rivers and the condition that nurtures the seed."
It is not the first time that Weil has been involved in a public art project on the East End: In 2005, the artist worked with a group of students at Greenport High School on a project called MariTIME Bronze. The students sculpted 12 cast bronze plaques, representing the positions on a clock face, surrounding four plaques created by Weil.
The project is now permanently installed in Greenport on the sidewalk in front of the carousel, capturing the students' vision for posterity.
Creating public art is meaningful for Weil. "As a visual artist who works in the studio alone frequently, I appreciate the connection to the community," she said. "I feel it's important for artists to give back to their community."
Weil, who grew up in a small town in Westchester and lived on a kibbutz before going to college, often works alone and welcomes the exchange found in the classroom. Most importantly, she cherishes the opportunity to pass on time-honored traditions and techniques to her students. "Teaching is a big challenge for a visual artist, when they work alone – to be responsive to a larger world and have that interaction, and to try to find a significant relationship to the community." Creating outdoor works, she said, help foster that significant interaction.
When the call for Seed went out almost three years ago, Weil submitted three small maquettes, or models, for consideration. Each model was inspired by Berry's line of poetry, given to the artists as inspiration.
"The pattern is consistent with my personal work, such as what I have on exhibit now at Art Sites," she said. "It has that apparent texture of a stream or river, and it blended right in with the theme of the commission." The flowing passage of time and the creation of a lasting legacy for future generations is a theme that runs consistently through her work.
With the piece being cast now, the process has taken three years. "One of the lessons I've learned is to be patient – focused, disciplined and patient."
Weil said her association with Art Sites – where her current exhibit is on display through August 4 – and the Kouros Gallery, have afforded her independence and enabled her to be less reliant on commercialization of the artistic process. "It's a great gift to be able to have that opportunity. When your gallery believes in your work, it thrusts you forward."
Living in Orient, Weil is inspired by the landscape – the water and the quiet. "When you cross the causeway, it's amazing – you feel as though you've crossed into a different world."
She embraces winter walks on the beach and working in the garden.
When not at home or teaching, Weil travels abroad – her sculpture is inspired by megalithic cultures in Europe. Seeking inspiration from megalithic stones, she's traveled to Scotland and Ireland, Malta and Spain, and this year, to Portugal, visiting megalithic archeological sites in search of the ancient muse that infuses her work with a link to the past. "There's a whole other soul within the work that has connection to, and influence from, early cultures," she said, adding that her work focuses on Neolithic spiritual sites.
Art and history, she said, are inseparable. "It's a personal journey for me to look at past historical information and archeological sites. They give me a sense of why we are here today – there's a link." The objective, she said, is to "make sense of our place in history."
In the future, Weil would like to do larger commissions, pieces that would invite viewers to walk into vast spaces and sit inside, fostering introspection.
Weil has a wish for her own legacy: "I hope that I've inspired people to think about their place in the world, their historical context," she said. "I hope my legacy will leave a lasting impression of inspiration."