Edgardo Carmona’s Iron Sculptures in Downtown Fort Myers
In his sculptures, Colombian artist Edgardo Carmona showcases “likable characters that make Cartagena, Colombia, what it is.” The sculptures, all carved from rustic iron, depict characters and scenes from Mr. Carmona’s hometown, where he was born in 1950. The figures represent people who might otherwise not be featured in sculptures: A simple-minded boy fishing in a bucket, a woman caught on a windy day, two drunks on a park bench, men playing chess, a fruit seller, a knife sharpener and more. They represent “the commonality of real people,” Carmona said. The artist is pleased at the way his work looks in downtown Fort Myers. In his own words, “This place reminds me of my hometown of Cartagena, Colombia. It has a colonial feel that goes well with my pieces.”
Shipped overseas from Paris, the iron sculptures range from 200 to 1,000 pounds and up to 10 feet tall. They are currently installed throughout the River District until March 31. Since 2003, Mr. Carmons’s artwork has been exhibited in South America, Germany, and most recently in an 18-city tour of Europe, including Paris. Many of his works are on permanent display around the world, but this is Mr. Carmona’s first North American exhibit.
This exhibit is world class. Carmona’s sculptures come to Fort Myers compliments of fellow Colombians Eduardo Caballero (Carmona’s childhood friend in Cartagena, Colombia) and Abel Ramirez of the Miami-based JAXI Builders, Inc. The exhibit serves as both a public art gift and a kick-off to the sales of Allure, a 292-unit luxury condominium community to be built by JAXI Builders along the Caloosahatchee River, starting in 2017.
The sculptures are loosely grouped in clusters, and at each sculpture, there is an information brochure that gives the map and the name and description of the sculpture. The sculptures are all at a reasonable distance from each other, but they don’t necessarily stand out from their background–many of them are, by design, street scenes, so it is important to consult the map in order not to miss any. These sculptures are amazing. Not only is the artist working with metal–not the easiest kind of material to mold into human shapes and have it look like anything–but his most fascinating creations are immediately recognizable and capture a moment in time that conveys meaning to the observer.
Visitors to downtown Fort Myers attend the reveal of a public art display on Thursday entitled “Alure Your Senses” created by Columbian artist Edgardo Carmona. Video by Jack Hardman/The News-Press
The phone had been ringing all week at the Fort Myers mayor’s office. Everyone, it seemed, wanted to know the same thing: What’s up with all those covered figures scattered around downtown Fort Myers?
On Thursday, the mystery finally got solved. And Mayor Randy Henderson was there to help unveil what’s been hiding under tarpaulins and plastic wrapping: A family of 23 iron giants created by Colombian sculptor Edgardo Carmona.
“In our wildest dreams, we couldn’t have anticipated something like this,” Henderson told a crowd of journalists, city employees and art officials Thursday morning, when the sculptures were revealed. “This is a world-class event: From the Eiffel Tower to the beautiful streets of Fort Myers.”
The larger-than-life, artfully rusted sculptures mark the first time Carmona has exhibited his art in North America. The show — a promotion for the planned luxury condo towers Allure — was organized through the city’s Public Art Committee and Allure’s staff (including developer Eduardo Caballero, Carmona’s childhood friend in Cartagena, Colombia).
Allure will feature two, 32-story towers and 292 residences overlooking the Caloosahatchee River at 2601 First St. in downtown Fort Myers, just east of the Edison Bridge. JAXI Builders Inc. expects to start construction next year.
Condo prices range from $265,000 to more than $2 million, said Barbara Bengochea-Perez, sales and marketing director for the project. Sales started this month.
The Carmona exhibit is visiting Fort Myers after an 18-city tour of Europe. That included stops in Italy, Germany and France, where the artist says one of his sculptures was displayed in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.Exhibit makes Fort Myers stop
“I’m thrilled,” said Sharon McAllister, a member of the Public Art Committee and executive director for ArtFest Fort Myers. “Bringing an exhibit of this caliber and this large — the first time in North American — is such a map-placing thing for us.
“It’s not in Sarasota. It’s not in Miami. It’s not in Chicago. It’s here.”
Another Carmona sculpture, “Duo Sinfonico,” will appear next week at Southwest Florida Regional Airport, Bengochea-Perez said.
Using Bengochea-Perez as an interpreter, the Spanish-speaking Carmona said he built his 7- to 10-foot tall sculptures using hydraulic machines, sandblasting and a special method to remove the calamine from the rust and stop the oxidation process.
The rust, he said, gives each piece a pleasing, colorful patina, he said. “It’s intentional.”
The figures, each weighing between 200 and about 1,000 pounds, represent people who might otherwise not be featured in sculptures: A simple-minded fisherman, a woman caught in a rainstorm, two drunks on a park bench, men playing chess, a fruit seller, a knife sharpener and more. They represent “the commonality of real people,” Carmona said.
One piece, “Sintonia” (or “tuning”), has an even more personal meaning to Carmona, though: It was inspired by his father, a college math professor who spent a lot of time listening to the news on the radio. The sculpture shows a man leaning forward in a rocking chair and turning the dial on an old radio.
“He was very attuned to what was happening in the entire city,” Carmona said about his father. “He lived with his own frequency in his own world.”
Even so, he said, inspiration for each piece shouldn’t matter to the viewer. Everyone sees something different and experiences the sculptures from their own viewpoint.
“Once you see it,” he said, “you have the ability to create your own story, in your own imagination.”
The Carmona exhibit will be displayed through March 31 and perhaps be extended longer, Bengochea-Perez said. Then the sculptures will be packed up and shipped to Spain for another exhibit in May.
The exhibit is intended to draw attention to the Allure project and downtown Fort Myers, Bengochea-Perez said.
Thursday’s opening coincided with the opening of Allure’s sales gallery in the former Art of the Olympians building on Hendry Street.
“We’re wanting to make the City of Fort Myers a destination point,” she said. “It allures people to the city.”
Edgardo Carmona Collection
Included in the City of Fort Myers public art collection are 23 Cor-Ten sculptures created by Columbian artist Edgardo Carmona. They include (in alphabetical order):
1. Al Filo (The Knife Sharpener): In today’s disposable market, where restaurants and homeowners simply throw out dull cutlery, knife sharpeners have become a dying breed. Through this piece, Carmona brings to life the forgotten the memory of the old knife sharpener, whose motorized stone wheel emitted a deep growl and glittering sparks that once seared themselves into the mind of the children of Cartagena and fabric of the community’s spirit. [Outside of Fort Myers, one would have to travel to Frosolone, Italy to find a life-size statue of a knife maker/sharpener. The town of about 3,300 is known historically for its knife craftsmanship and, in addition to the statue, has a museum dedicated to knives and scissor-making and hosts an annual “forging festival” that draws thousands.]
2. Al Galope (The Horse): This piece portrays both intensity and restriction, beauty and simplicity. Although standing still, the horse is both awake and eager to gallop.
3. Anquila (Eel): In this sculpture, Carmona captures the subtlety of the eel’s movement. More than simply sculpting a sea creature that spends its life in the waters of rivers and oceans, the artist focuses on bringing to life the subtle movements that seem to flow in the air.
4. Apareo: Resembling a symphony, this piece recreates the movement, intimacy and silent music that exists between two organisms during the act of mating.
5. Cadencia (Bongo Drummer): An old African myth postulates that the drum can wake up and play itself independent of its player. The drums integrate themselves to the body and hands of the artist, as if they were one. This harmonic sculpture creates one single integrated rhythm.
6. Caracol (Snail’s Shell): With minimalist intensity and limited lines and shapes, in this piece Carmona captures the mysterious beauty and spiral body that sleeps below the snail’s hard shell.
7 Deshove (Fertilization): In this artwork, the artist employs just a few elements to recreate the moment of fertilization. The release of the fish eggs is defined in this sculpture as a large circle; the process of fertilization in the form of curves.
8. Don Quijote: In this piece, the sculptor recreates the famous character Don Quixote from the classic Spanish novel The Ingenious Gentleman Dox Quixote de La Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. Anxious to begin his battle, the expression of hope and illusion is clearly depicted on the adventurous character’s face. This sculpture is also a tribute to the character Don Quixote Incarnates – the utopian spirit of following one’s own dreams.
9. Duo Sinfonico (Man Playing Flute)
10. Ena En La Plaza (Ribbon Routine): This sculpture creates two integrated movements – the body of the rhythmic gymnast playing with a ribbon and the spirals that spread in the wind as she engages in a dance that defines gravity. This interplay underscores balance, movement, internal and external strength which combine to find and express a sublime, poignant moment in time. [Rhythmic gymnastics has been an Olympic sport since 1984. Compulsory elements include flicks, circles, snakes, spirals and throws. Routines require a high degree of coordination to form the spirals and circles. Judges look for large, smooth, flowing movements and penalize any knots which may accidentally form in the ribbon during the routine.]
11. Faena En La Plaza (Unicycle Juggler): In this piece, Carmona depicts a juggler sitting atop his unicycle with his rings ready for action while the wind tests his balance. [Cartagena is known universally for its numerous plazas, and Plaza de la Trinidad in the grungy Gethsemane district treats tourists from all over the world to lovely little restaurants and bars and all manner of enthusiastic street performers, from hip-hop dancers to jugglers and acrobats who jump and spin to the sound of breaking, locking and popping. But it was actually a Scottish performer who went by the stage name of Boy Foy who pioneered the art of unicycle juggling in the mid-1930s. In addition to quarter-inch-thick wood rings, Foy’s act consisted of 3 and 4 club routines, 3 top hats, ball-and-mouth stick work, and several combination tricks. At the peak of his 50-year career, he also performed a cups-and saucers routine.]
12. Juego De Ajedrez (The Chess Players): In this piece, Carmona portrays the containment of the opponents as they sit face to face across a chess board. Each move could lead to victory or failure. The expressions on the players’ faces and gestures they make with their hands are the result of thorough observation. The artist sketched out several versions of this sculpture, testing his knowledge of the game and the implications of the moves and scenarios of the players’ expressions. “Chess and dominos are not the same,” Carmona has pointed out. “There is a specific spirit to each game.” [This particular sculpture depicts two chess players in a square outside Iglesia de San Pedro Claver in Cartagena. Chess is a favorite pastime in Cartagena, with many locals flocking to the Liga de Ajedres or Chess League on the corner of Plaza Bolivar for a game on tables set up beneath a painting of a wizard-type character gazing over a chess set.]
13. Juego de Domino (Domino Players): Domino players are an emblematic part of tradition and life in the Caribbean and Antilles. This piece depicts the simplicity and ease of outdoor Caribbean living. The players sit around a domino game and strategize each move based on their decoding of missing pieces to complete the game.
14. Mambeo: This sculpture pays homage to the indigenous Kogui community in Santa Marta’s Sierra Nevada. The tribe’s leader, “El Mamo, is brought to life in this sculpture, which depicts a common practice of chewing on coca leaves. [The centuries-old tradition of chewing coca leaves is especially popular among working class Columbians, particularly those engaged in physically-demanding labor. Chewing coca leaves acts as an appetite suppressant, helps with altitude sickness, provides energy and improves digestion. Contrary to popular belief, the leaves do not release cocaine, provide no high when chewed and are not addictive.]
15. Melomano (Music Lover): This sculpture captures three elements: setting, position and mystery. It transports viewers to a scene where a music lover sits in his rocking chair listening to music. He sits in a position of excitement and curiosity, bringing his ear close to the speaker to ensure he is able to capture every note. It creates a sense of mystery and allure as to what could be so magical in this song.
16. Negacion A Baco (Two Drunks on a Park Bench): This piece takes place in the late evening hours, narrating the story of what takes place after the work day is over and recreates the conflicts of those that have had too much to drink. As they sit on a park bench, one man refuses to take another drink. The gestures of the characters and the movement of their hands in the air tell a story, incorporating irony, humor and studied emotions.
17. Nostalgia De Cuerdas: The suggestion completes the hand of the one who plays the strings in this sculpture. The artist discovers that the figurative can be reinvented with silence and space.
18. Sintonia (Nostalgic Tune on the Radio): In this sculpture, Carmona captures a moment where time sits still and nothing else matters as the subject, sitting in his rocking chair, listens to the news on the radio while reading a favorite book. This work of art depicts the nostalgia of passing time. The scene stays embedded in our memories forever. [This work was inspired by Carmona’s father, a college math professor who spent a lot of time listening to the news on his radio. “He was very attuned to what was happening in the entire city,” Carmona said about his father. “He lived with his own frequency in his own world.”]
19. Trialogo (Cyclist and Dog): In this piece, Carmona outlines extremes, depicting limits but also infinites, showing the tangible as well as the intangible. Object, subject, animal, gestures and movement create one single moment in this sculptural display, which features accuracy in line, volume and shape. The dog runs towards the pedaling cyclist attempting to bite at his heel, while at the same time challenging the bicycle itself. This sculpture depicts gestures while creating a scene with movement.
20. Territorios: This sculpture presents the irony encapsulated by a dog “marking his territory” in the same way as the man who’s leaning against the light pole. When originally unveiled, Territorias stirred a bit of controversy. Although the Public Art Committee hadn’t noticed this detail when they originally reviewed images of the sculptures, the Committee refused to give in to demands for the artwork’s removal and today it is one of the collection’s most popular pieces. Some people think it’s humorous; others simply concede it as a fact of life. A watercolor artist painted an image of the work and printed it on t-shirts, which quickly sold out.
21. Utopia (Boy Fishing from a Bucket): This sculpture depicts a boy fishing from a bucket. Because of its message and meaning, it is Carmona’s most tender piece. It brings to life Rafael Pombo’s Simon El Bobito, a local children’s story about a boy who fishes from a bucket, Carmona gives this common story a new and happy ending, bringing triumph and happiness to Simon by giving him a fish to capture from his bucket. This piece creates a message around the Pygmalion effect and the theory of self-realization.
22. Vendedora De Frutas (Female Fruit Seller): One of the most emblematic characters of Cartegena de Indias is the palenquera, a female fruit seller of San Basilio de Palenque. This piece depicts the majestic figure of the palenquera, with her grand fruit basket sitting above her head, as if she carried with her the weight of the world.
23. Vendedor De Raspaos (Snow Cone Vendor): The snow cone street vendor is an iconic character found in the landscape of Cartagena de Indias. The hands of the street vendor selling “raspaos” (snow cones) transform giant blocks of ice into miniscule pieces of shaved ice. The condensed milk drips perfectly atop the sweet flavors of lime, tamarind and Kola.
These descriptions notwithstanding, Carmona hopes that viewers will formulate their own opinion of the meaning for each piece. “Once you see it, you have the ability to create your own story, in your own imagination,” Carmona says. That being the case, Carmona’s inspiration for each piece shouldn’t matter to the viewer. Everyone will see something different and experience the sculptures from their own viewpoint.
About Edgardo Carmona
Edgardo Carmona was born in Cartagena, Columbia to a mathematician father who encouraged his son to study Mechanical Engineering and Business Administration. Although he also studied painting and sculpture, Carmona embarked upon a career in constructing steel buildings and designing machines. This formed the basis for working of metals, which is his medium of choice in many of his sculptures, including his designs in downtown Fort Myers.
Carmona has displayed his art throughout Europe and parts of South America including the cities of Munich, Paris, Panama City, and Bogota. The installation that Fort Myers ultimately purchased toured Europe, making stops in 18 cities in Germany, Italy and France. Many of his works are on permanent display around the world.
Carmona uses hydraulic machines, sandblasting and a special method to remove the calamine from the rust and stop the oxidation process. By design, the rust gives each piece a pleasing, colorful patina.
Condominium developer Eduardo Caballaro invited Edgardo Carmona to bring his installation to Fort Myers for its North American debut in order to promote a two-tower 292-room condominium project his company, JAXI Builders, is building on on Fort Myers’ waterfront. Caballaro and Carmona were childhood friends in Cartagena, Colombia. When Caballaro shared Fort Myers’ history (particularly the role of the Calusa Indians), the artist felt his exhibit–with its focus on people who might otherwise go unnoticed–would fit right in. The fact that he could help his friend promote his new condo development didn’t hurt either.
The exhibition was originally scheduled to be transported to Spain when the show ended in March of 2016. After several extensions, the City entered into negotiations with Carmona for purchase of the entire exhibition. The purchase was consummated on August 6, 2018 with approval of the contract for sale and purchase by Fort Myers City Council.
Fort Myers consummates acquisition of Edgard Carmona sculptures (08-12-18)
Following months of negotiations with Columbian sculptor Edgardo Carmona, the City of Fort Myers has acquired the 23-piece installation of “likable characters” from Cartagena that were first unveiled in the downtown Fort Myers River District in January of 2016 by JAXI Builders to promote its two-tower Allure luxury condominium project. City Council approved the purchase at its August 6 meeting.
While some of the sculptures have stirred their fair share of controversy, most residents, worker and visitors express fondness for the figures, which represent ordinary people not typically featured in modern-day representational sculptures: a simple-minded fisherman, a woman caught in a rainstorm, two drunks on a park bench, men playing chess, a fruit seller, a knife sharpener and more. They represent “the commonality of real people,” said Carmona of his subjects.
The sculptures are now subject to the purview of the City’s Public Art Committee, whose first order of business will be to decide whether all 23 pieces should remain where they are or several should be relocated to sites within Fort Myers’ other five wards.
The City’s public art collection dates back to August 17, 1913 when the City accepted Dr. Marshall O.Terry’s donation of a fountain and horse trough honoring his late wife, Tootie McGregor Terry. The City received its second public artwork in 1926 with James D. Newton’s gift of The Spirit of Fort Myers, the Grecian maiden popularly known as Rachel at the Well who has now graced the entrance to Edison Park for more than 92 years.
The City’s collection remained largely static for the next half century, but it experienced a 20-year growth spurt beginning in 1982 when the Beautification Advisory Board commissioned North Fort Myers sculptor Don J. Wilkins to create a series of new fountains (such as Uncommon Friends and The Florida Panthers), outdoor sculptures (including the USCT 2d Regiment Memorial in Centennial Park) and indoor busts (that include the Harborside Collection).
With the addition of the 23 Carmona sculptures, the City’s public art collection now exceeds 60 artworks. But only a sculpture known as What Dreams May Fly and How They Fly installed by the Public Art Committee in Clemente Park in 2015 is located outside of Ward 4. And that reality has prompted a number of City Council members to urge the Committee to locate newly-commissioned artworks in the City’s other five wards. It therefore came as no surprise when Ward 2 Councilman Johnny B. Streets, Jr. stated during discussion preceding approval of the Carmona purchase that he’d like to see some of the sculptures moved to sites within the City’s other wards.
The sculptures are well-traveled. Before coming to Fort Myers, the installation completed an 18-city European tour with stops in Italy, Germany and France. One piece was even displayed in front of the Eiffel Tower. The Public Art Committee is expected to consider the possibility of breaking up the installation or rotating pieces among each of the City’s six wards once a year or more. Cost will be an important factor in the latter regard as each sculpture weighs between 200 and 1,000 pounds.
The Committee will also discuss whether to include some of all of the Carmona sculptures on Otocast, a free smartphone app that provides narrative and audio recordings explaining specific artworks to the people who visit, live and work in the River District. Most people who encounter Fort Myers’ outdoor artworks have no idea who made them or what they represent. The City’s Public Art Committee hopes to change that equation with the launch of its free Otocast phone app.
According to urban planners, economists and public art professionals, people who live and work in communities with a vibrant public art program enjoy more than three dozen interrelated benefits from the art that surrounds them. But these salutatory effects are only fully realized to the extent people are able to interact with the artworks on a physical, intellectual and emotional level. Otocast facilitates a deeper connection with public art by letting viewers in on behind-the-scenes stories previously known only to the art insiders who commissioned, made and installed the sculptures, murals and other artworks that dot the urban landscape.
In this context, the Committee will now consider is whether interaction with the installation will be enhanced or undermined by relocating various pieces to the City’s other wards.
Meetings of the City of Fort Myers Public Art Committee are conducted in the sunshine and are open to the public. They are held on the third Tuesday of each month, and begin promptly at 4:00 p.m. Agendas are posted on the City’s website, which also contains videos of past meetings.
15 of City’s new Carmona sculptures to be moved to City’s other five wards (10-18-18)
This past August, the City of Fort Myers purchased the 23 rust-colored sculptures that line the streets downtown and the east promenade that circles the City’s 1.8 acre river basin. But only seven of them will remain in River District locations. The City’s Public Art Committee resolved on Tuesday to move one of the pieces to the Edison & Ford Winter Estates and relocate 15 others to sites in the City’s other five wards.
Over the past several years, City Council has regularly expressed the sentiment that public art should be interspersed throughout Fort Myers’ six wards so that all of its citizens can enjoy and be inspired by its public art collection. For a variety of reasons, the vast majority of the City’s 46 public artworks are located downtown. Many (such as Fire Dance, The Great Turtle Chase, Uncommon Friends, the USCT 2nd Regiment Monument and the Buckingham & Paige Army Air Field Memorial) reside in Centennial Park. Since relocating monumental sculptures and permanent installations is expensive and fraught with technological challenges, the idea was to site new commissions in Wards 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6.
But then the Great Recession struck and donations to the City’s public art fund dried up as building and development slowed and then stopped altogether. Thus, acquisition of the Allure/Carmona sculptures represents the first meaningful opportunity for the City’s Public Art Committee to place art on sites outside of Ward 4.
The seven sculptures that will remain downtown are:
Ena En La Plaza (Ribbon Routine)
Faena En La Plaza (Unicycle Juggler)
Negacion A Baco (Two Drunks on a Park Bench)
Sintonia (Nostalgic Tune on the Radio)
Territorias (Man and Dog Urinating on a Lamppost)
Utopia (Boy Fishing from a Bucket)
Vendedor De Raspaos (Snow Cone Vendor)
Ribbon Routine will be moved to the Collaboratory at 2301 Jackson Street (across from the bus terminal) that will celebrate its grand opening on Sunday. The exact location of the other six sculptures has yet to be determined and may change as work on the new Luminary Hotel and revamped convention center progresses.
An eighth sculpture will be retained in Ward 4, although not downtown. Because it features a Victrola-style phonograph, Melomano (Music Lover) will be relocated to the Edison Ford Winter Estates in recognition of Thomas Edison’s special relationship to the phonograph. He invented the device, completing the first model on August 12, 1877, and he considered it his all-time favorite invention.
The Public Art Committee is working with each City Council member to identify sites within their wards for the other 15 Allure/Carmona sculptures. Once all the works have been moved to their new homes, the Public Art Committee expects to add text, photos and audio recordings to its free phone app known as Otocast so that residents, vacationers and cultural tourists can find, visit and learn about each of the 23 pieces, along with the City’s other 46 public artworks.
Naturally, Art Southwest Florida will report on future developments.