NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - On Sunday, May 19, sculptor Bob Hill of Summit gave a talk at the New Providence Memorial Library about his art. Hill has three works of public art currently on display in New Providence: “Toss-Up” at the library, “Coral (Marjan)” at Borough Hall, and “Shared Dream” at Veterans Memorial Park.
After an introduction by Arlene Regan of the New Providence Public Art (NPPA) borough committee, Bob Hill began his presentation with photos of his early sculptures in clay and bronze casts. The structural limitations of clay led Hill to attend the New York School of Visual Arts to learn to work with steel. “I was making clay forms of dancers,” said Hill, then pointed at a steel rod supporting one of his clay sculptures. “That’s when I started thinking about how strong steel is.”
The presentation included a look at Hill’s fireproof studio, and a visual explanation of Hill’s process, which involves cutting, welding, bending and finishing stainless steel. Hill showed the audience how he plans for a sculpture, sharing a sketch and a cardboard maquette made when he was planning “Shared Dream,” which was installed in April at Veterans Memorial Park and features the curves that are a hallmark of Hill’s art.
Hill told the audience that abstract art gives him the chance to produce a unique vision, and he asked the audience what they felt as they looked at photos of some of his abstract sculptures. Half the audience thought the six blocks that form “Toss-Up” are on their way up, while the other half of the audience felt the blocks look as if they are falling.
The audience viewed photos of Hill’s current show at the Maplebrook School in Amenia, NY, Hill’s “Steelworks” sculpture in Harrison, NJ, as well as “Making It Happen,” which was dedicated at the re-opening of Pascack Valley Medical Center in Westwood, NJ. When an audience member asked about the color variations on a sculpture, Hill responded he enjoys the reflections when working with stainless steel, with light changing the color of his outdoor sculptures.
After the presentation, the artist and the audience walked outside for a close-up view of “Toss-Up” on the New Providence Memorial Library’s lawn. An audience member pushed on the blocks, not expecting them to move, and was surprised when they turned. Hill explained that the blocks are light enough to turn because they are hollow. Before its installation at the library, “Toss-Up” was on display outside the Hunterdon Art Museum in Clinton, NJ.
The short walking tour ended at the sculpture “Coral (Marjan)” at the municipal gym entrance overlooking Academy Street. “Coral (Marjan)” is a memorial to Marjan Nirou-Saniee, the New Providence resident, instructor and artist who founded New Providence Public Art in 2015. While leading the NPPA, Nirou-Saniee had recognized the potential of the brick wall where “Coral (Marjan)” now hangs as a background for public art.
Referring to the organic, plant-like sculpture he created after Nirou-Saniee passed away, Hill said “I saw this as a living tribute to Marjan, someone who had a lot of life and someone we would like to still have with us.” Marjan’s husband, Iraj Saniee, saw the work as depicting coral, and told Hill that the name Marjan means “coral” in Persian. “So the design and name of the sculpture turned out to be even more appropriate,” Hill added.
NPPA is a non-profit organization that is part of the New Providence Downtown Improvement District. Its mission is to bring public art to New Providence in the form of outdoor sculptures to be enjoyed by all. Public art in New Providence is completely funded through private donations and fundraisers. Arlene Regan, Jill LeFevre, Beth Gallagher, and Mary Jean Canziani represented the NPPA at the library talk.
In addition to Hill’s three sculptures, the other two works of public art currently on view in New Providence are Maximilian Pelzmann’s sculptures in front of the Allen W. Roberts School, “I Hear You” and “Canopy.”