Claudia Comte, inspired by the wonders of nature, unveils Five Marble Leaves in Boston

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Claudia Comte, inspired by the wonders of nature, unveils Five Marble Leaves in Boston
Five Marble Leaves. Photo: © Faith Ninivaggi.

BOSTON, MASS.- Inspired by 24 pin and red oak trees inside Boston’s Central Wharf Park, the acclaimed and award-winning international artist Claudia Comte has developed a new body of sculptural work, Five Marble Leaves, is on view now.

Drawing attention to the marvel of nature and the importance of rising to the challenge of the current environmental crisis, the large-scale work was commissioned by Now + There, Boston’s public art nonprofit that brings temporary, site-specific installations to all of the city’s neighborhoods and was curated by Boston’s Pedro Alonzo.

Comte’s artwork has captivated art critics and the public in solo and group shows all over the world including Berlin, Geneva, Copenhagen, Madrid, London, Vienna, and New York City. A native of Switzerland, she has long been inspired by nature. Growing up near a forest, she has been surrounded by trees since her earliest days. As a child, she visited the Grand Canyon and became enamored of desert landscapes; as an avid scuba diver, she developed a fondness for undersea environs. Her love of flora and fauna from different environments has resulted in her creation of dramatic vibrant sculptures in the form of cacti, corals, and leaves.

For Five Marble Leaves, Comte created enlarged star-shaped leaf sculptures, placed along the path to the Boston waterfront as if they had fallen from the trees in Central Wharf Park. The works reflect the seasonal cycle of leaves, falling in autumn and growing back in spring. They are accompanied by six marble plaques with fragments of quotes from environmental activists, marine biologists, and anthropologists whom Comte admires, such as David Attenborough, Rachel Carson, Jane Goodall, Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, Greta Thunberg, and Paul Watson.

“The sculptures that make up Five Marble Leaves have the scale and magnitude of trees,” Comte said. “The leaf forms are magnified to monumental proportions. This installation is a representation of the living beings not being paid enough attention like the marine life hidden in the depths of our oceans or fallen leaves taken by an autumnal breeze.”

To create her sculptures, Comte begins with hand carved wood from a sustainably sourced fallen tree. Using a chainsaw, she carves the initial shape and then sands it until smooth. The wooden figure is then 3D-scanned and fed to a milling robot that renders the exact form on a larger scale. The process begins with the artist’s hand, goes through an industrial mode of fabrication, and ends in the hands of the stone carvers who polish the stone meticulously. It reflects the transformation of the Carrara marble itself, which is composed of once living microorganisms that were calcified over thousands of years.

“It’s my hope that people will find the sculptures inspiring and inviting so they feel free to lay down on them, feel closer to trees and nature in a small urban setting, while also deepening an appreciation for trees, a vital natural resource for addressing climate change,” Comte said.

Curator Pedro Alonzo sees the accessible, playful nature of Five Marble Leaves. “Comte has the power to make us want to cuddle up and embrace her marble sculptures,” he said. “At a time when humanity must reimagine our complicated relationship with the environment, Comte’s work in Central Wharf Park makes it easy to appreciate the wonders of nature.”

Central Wharf Park is an urban micro-forest, composed of mature oak trees, and sits between the New England Aquarium and the Rose Kennedy Greenway at 250 Atlantic Avenue in Downtown Boston. “It’s a place in Boston that has the power to remind us of the intersection of greenways and ocean and our need to protect and revere the natural world,” said Kate Gilbert, Now + There’s Executive Director. “Claudia’s beguiling sculptures give us time to contemplate, pause, and focus on the necessity of paying attention.”

Claudia Comte (b. 1983) is a Swiss artist whose work is defined by her interest in the memory of materials and by a careful observation of how the hand relates to different technologies. She studied at the Ecole Cantonale d’Art de Lausanne, ECAL (2004-2007), followed by a Master’s of Art degree in Science of Education at Haute Ecole Pédagogique, Visual Arts, Lausanne, Switzerland (2008-2010). Her body of work is best known for her site-specific installations. The artist's practice is guided by a distinct rule-measurement system of her own creation, wherein each artwork specifically relates to one another. Drawing on the powers of communication, knowledge and symbiosis between animal and plant life, Comte’s dynamic and shape-shifting objects pay testament to the intelligence and transformative capacities of the ecological world. Her minimalist approach to art-making is equal parts methodical and dynamic. Works are infused with a distinct sense of playfulness. Her artistic output incorporates a diverse range of mediums from sculpture, to painting, to various multimedia installations. She has shown her work all over the world.

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