By Steven Froias
The year 2019 could be termed the Year of Jardin.
The New Bedford artist managed the hat trick of not just one, or even two, but now three high profile public art events in the city that reflected his unique aesthetic, commitment to his craft, and intense personal connection to the physical and emotional landscape of New Bedford.
His third and final project of 2019 brought him to the city’s north end – or rather, saw him circling back to the north end to attend to a bit of what he thought was unfinished business.
That would be a companion piece to the mural he first created several years ago on the south-facing side of the I-195 underpass just a block away from Coggeshall Street, and an unofficial gateway into the city.
Even as he executed a stunning installation at Haskell Public Gardens this past summer, and then plotted a wild one-man show downtown at the Co-Creative Center, Jardin’s mind was percolating with thoughts about how to complete his north end public art mural project.
He did that by making it personal.
The south side of the underpass featured elements of the sea, and to create balance with it the artist sought a way to visually represent the relationship of humans with the water – especially appropriate in a seaport city.
So, for this piece of public art, he dug deep into his own personal history even as he envisioned a universal message for the image.
He explains, “It’s a comment on preservation of precious natural resources for our continued progress and development.
“We’ve made a habit of focusing on the cleanliness, aesthetic and design of the built environment while simultaneously putting less effort and attention into ensuring our water, air and soil are clean.”
For the companion piece on the north side of the underpass, Jardin chose a boat to illustrate this theme – “the boat is the main subject which is why there are no other entities.”
“I used photos from a model at the Whaling Museum, “ he says,” to create the ship’s image.
“It is the same boat my father fished on for as long as I can remember. It’s also the same boat he took me to work on, unloading fish down at the docks, and my first and only commercial fishing trip.”
The image he painstakingly created for the mural – for Jardin is not a casual artist – “is cut into pieces almost similar as you would a fish,” he notes…”removing the head, tail and keeping the body for fillets.”
The creation of this new mural in the north end was certainly an Alexander Jardin production. Just as with Haskell Jardin (read more here) it involved many visits to the site and a constant reevaluation of not only the image itself but the best methods by which it could be brought to life.
Alexander Jardin does not do anything in half-measure. Which is why during a year of intense activity for the artist, characterized by public and personal accomplishment, he returned to this project to complete the second-half – and thus make it whole.
And in the process, has bequeathed once again upon the City of New Bedford something authentic to its creative soul.