PORTSMOUTH The visionary behind The Music Hall archway, and the sculpture at Foundry Place garage, Terrance Parker has been chosen to design and oversee installation of a public-art sculpture at the new Jenness Beach bathhouse.
Called “The Kelp Wave,” the sculpture will be forged from aluminum, into a trio of 14-foot, upward flowing shapes, to evoke kelp leaves and curling waves, Parker explained. The design is his, the aluminum will withstand years of salty weather and be forged by Bob Menard of Ball and Chain Forge in Portland, Maine.
Parker is owner of the Portsmouth-based Terra Firma landscape architecture.
The state in March solicited proposals for public art at the bathhouse, calling for a maritime theme and durability against seaside elements. Solicitations were sought by the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts, through the Percent for Art program. After some disagreement with locals about the bathhouse design, compromise was reached and Gov. Chris Sununu cut the ribbon for the new bathhouse in June.
Parker said his public art projects start with his understanding of the history at the location and “the energy of the site.” When he designed “Hammer Heads” for the Foundry garage, another public art project, he sought to represent the history of forges, factories and railroad in the area. The “Chestnut Street Arch,” which was privately funded, included his visual references to Portsmouth furniture, buildings and maritime history.
For the Jenness Beach sculpture, Parker said, he thought of Kelp Wave as representing “the connections we have to the sea.”
In an application to the state for the public-art commission, Parker wrote, “Kelp is the perfect symbol for the action of a wave and all the promise the ocean holds. Kelp creates the environment to sustain fish habitat, it captures carbon, it converts the life of the sun to food, and it may very well be a new economic driver for the Gulf of Maine and our Seacoast. Kelp is and will be an important sustainable food source for this century.”
The sculptural form will be made from three vertical ribbons of aluminum to create blades of kelp that twist to a crest of a wave, he said.
“The strands bend, arch and crisscross to form the wave action,” Parker explained in his winning pitch to the state. “This sculpture is physically beautiful and reminds us that the ocean is essential to our health and we have been historically dependent upon it. Those web of dependencies economical, environmental and emotional are more understood now than ever.”
Parker said his initial design represented a form that was a cross between a surfboard and a missile, caught by a wave, as homages to the area’s surfing and military history. He was told surfing isn’t allowed at Jenness Beach, so the idea was discouraged, he said.
Parker’s final, winning design will be made by Menard, upon the recommendation of Portsmouth blacksmith Peter Happny, he said. His public art proposal came in with a $12,500 price, while the state cited the project budget as $14,000.
Parker said he plans to visit the Maine forge where small prototypes will be created before the final sculpture is made and trucked to Rye in the spring. It will be installed on a large concrete block Parker will prepare, he said.
He said the angle of the crest of his kelp wave, is at the angle of the sun at the winter solstice, approximately 23 degrees.
“Therefore, if only for a moment, the tunnel of kelp leaves will frame the sun at high noon since it will be orientated to the southern sky,” according to his written concept to the state. “The Kelp Wave suggests the action of waves breaking. High tide and high seas. Storms. Power. Beauty. Danger. Excitement. All the things we understand the ocean to be.”