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Sculpted leaves allude to climate change on Boston waterfront

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Sculpted leaves allude to climate change on Boston waterfront
"Five Marble Leaves" is on view at Central Wharf Park across from the New England Aquarium. PHOTO: FAITH NINIVAGGI

Sculptor Claudia Comte erected a series titled “Five Marble Leaves,” along the Boston waterfront, inspired by the 24 pin and red oak trees in Central Wharf Park. The large-scale white marble sculptures emphasize the city’s natural environment and the importance of protecting it as the climate change crisis escalates.

“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.”

“Five Marble Leaves” by Claudia Comte. PHOTO: FAITH NINIVAGGI

The star-shaped leaves are placed around the park as though they fell naturally from the tree line above. Though they are large and solid, they have the ease and movement of lightly falling leaves. Six plaques accompany the sculptures featuring quotes from environmental activists David Attenborough, Rachel Carson, Jane Goodall, Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, Greta Thunberg and Paul Watson.

Central Park Wharf is an urban micro-forest of mature oak trees that sits just a short distance from the Boston waterfront, another center of the local climate change discourse. Situating the sculptures in this bustling, tourist-heavy area begs audiences to stand still for a moment and reflect on their environment.

“Comte has the power to make us want to cuddle up and embrace her marble sculptures,” says Curator Pedro Alonzo. “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.”

Comte’s process is just as environmentally conscious as her work. She begins with a wood carved sculpture made from a sustainably sourced fallen tree. She carves the basic outline of the piece with a chainsaw and then sands down the sculptures. The piece is then 3-D scanned and a milling robot creates a replica at a much larger scale. The process begins very organically with the artist’s hand and then uses technology to produce the finished piece, an example of the natural world and technological innovation working in harmony.

“Five Marble Leaves,” was commissioned by Now + There, the public art nonprofit dedicated to bringing temporary, site-specific works to neighborhoods around Boston where it can be accessible to all residents.

Comte says, “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.”