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 inCartagena, 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. “Itallures people to the city.”
Learn more at allureluxurycondominiums.com.
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