VENUS RISING FROM THE SEA

The historic fountain first appeared in 1893 at the German Pavillion of the World Columbian Exposition in chicago. Alas, the name of the sculptor has been lost. this Venus then became a product of the J.L. Mott foundry of New York, which went out of business in 1936. The city of Port Townsend, Washington had an intact original installed there in 1906. At the unveiling, "with a shout the large number present proclaimed their delight at the beauty revealed." (Port Townsend Leader, 1906). She is known locally as the Haller Fountain, after the donor. Within a few years of her appearance in Port Townsend, local bar owner Charlie Lange put trout in the pool and trained them to jump through a hoop. Photos of this were published far and wide.

Lots happened to the lady after the trained trout, including a car which careened down the hill behind her, hurling the figure out into the street. This was heroically repaired with good boat builder technique and some cement. she was painted at least twice, obscuring some detail. by the 1990s, the pot metal she was cast in and the solder joints were failing. some pieces had been broken off - these were all returned anonymously when news got around that they were needeed, except for a cherub foot. In 1992, a campaign spearheaded by the Port Townsend Kiwanis Club was launched to fund a new bronze casting of the crumbling original. fundraisers went door to door in the town, and cans were put in the grocery stores for spare change. The effort to save the fountain occurred when big issued divided the community, and Venus was able to bring people on opposite political sides to work together on a civic project. Everyone loves this local landmark.

The work of casting a new Venus went to myself and David Eisenhour, at the Riverdog foundry near Port Townsend. David and I took molds off the original, in order to reproduce the lovely lady, the cherubs, and the dragon fish in a form as closely duplicating the original as possible. We sculpted the detail back into the waces derived from these molds (see The Process). The new bronze first appeared for the townspeople on a float in Port Townsend;s annual Rhody Day parade. In September of 1993, she was installed at the original location in a new basin with all new plumbing and pump, with festivities.

Meanwhile, down in Redlands, California, others were wishing for the lady. The Kimberly Crest House and Garden in Redlands had first been graced by the Venus fountain in 1897. Could that have been the one that appeared at the world fair, only four years before? The story goes that the sister of Mrs. Kimberly would come for extended visits to the mansion and she objected to the nudity of the Venus. Someone discovered that the fountain, also of thin pot metal, could be separated and the figure taken of, which they did whenever this woman was visiting. The figure, stored in the back of the house, was crushed by a falling tree limb. In a curious crossing sort of way, it is interesting that Port Townsend didn't have a problem with the exposure of much of the Venus herself but orderede their fountain with fig leaves for the cupids, whereas on the Kimberly Crest casting the cherubs had no fig leaves, and this part of their fountain stayed out in front of the house even when Mrs. Kimberly's sister was there.

After the new bronze was up in Port Townsend, a traveler from Redlands, familiar with the history of the Kimberly mansion, saw that somehow a new casting might be possible for the Kimberly Crest. It took several years to come together, and then come together it did - in 2002 I began another casting of the Venus at my own studio. She was delviered to Redlands in October and installed in the refurbished bowl in the place she first graced so long ago. Mrs Kimberly and her sister might be somewhat confounded to know that much of the money raised to restore the Kimberly Crest Venus came from now grown graduates of the girls' school for etiquette taught for some years at the mansion.

The molds are the possession of the Port Townsend Kiwanis Club which has agreed to let me use them again, as we did for the Redlands lady, for a fee. This money is donated to charity by the Kiwanis. In the case of the Kimberly Crest casting, $4000 went to a fund for Jefferson County children needing care at Children's Hospital in Seattle.

The molds will stand one more casting, which I would be pleased to do. Please contact Carapace Arts.