• Instantané is more than an idle statue in Wilmette
    The Wilmette Beacon
    John Jacoby

    An interesting and unique feature of some communities is publicly-displayed works of art. On a grand scale, the Picasso at Daley Center and Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate at Millennium Park are immensely popular. On a smaller scale, works are popping up in towns and neighborhoods for the enjoyment of local residents.

    Here's the story of a publicly-displayed abstract sculpture in Wilmette.

    It's called Instantané. It's installed at the separation of Wilmette Avenue and Glenview Road, just north of Centennial Park. The sculptor is Chris Newman, 69, who received his formal art training as a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania in the late 1960s.

    For the next ten years, he was a professional artist and art teacher in Philadelphia and Cleveland. During this period, he produced Instantane´ (1974), first exhibited at Cleveland's Huron Mall.

    In 1978, Chris moved to the Chicago area to work in the health care industry. He brought Instantane´ along and placed it in his backyard in Evanston.

    In 1987, when he moved to Chicago, the sculpture needed a new home. He found it in the backyard of his Wilmette friends, Mari and David Terman. Chris and Mari met while both worked at Rush University Medical Center in the 1980s.

    In the midst of a thunderstorm, Instantané was successfully moved to the Termans' garden. David says he and Mari were "privileged" to have it for the next 22 years as "part of the environment of the house" and "part of our everyday life."

    In 2009, the Termans realized that the sculpture's long-term preservation required a new arrangement. With Chris's enthusiastic agreement, Instantané was generously donated to the people of Wilmette.

    Working cooperatively under Chris's direction, the Village and Park District moved it to its new home.
    If you're like me, abstract sculpture is enjoyable if its form is pleasing to the eye, even if its meaning is difficult to explain. Instantané passes my eye test. I'll leave the explanation to others.

    David explains that the sculpture at its new location "metaphorically echoes what’s happening on the ground there" -- the separation of the roads. Village employees nicknamed it Land Shark because when viewed from a certain angle, it looks like a dorsal fin cutting through the grass. Chris reacted to this nickname, "I love it!"

    Chris appreciates these interpretations because he wants the sculpture to provoke dialogue between it and the people looking at it. He enjoys hearing the discussion. His own explanation is that the sculpture is about motion and balance.

    "It’s caught in a dynamically stable position." Depending on the viewer's point of observation, "it appears to be moving in one direction or another." The word "instantané" means “snapshot” -- the sculpture captures a moment of apparent balance.

    While working in health care, Chris maintained a studio and continued sculpting. Since retiring, he's been a full-time sculptor (with a studio at 3400 N. Knox avenue, Chicago). His feelings about his creations are like those of parents who watch their offspring pass from childhood, into adulthood, and onto success or failure on their own.

    Chris's recent works include five abstract sculptures: Folding Forms, being exhibited at Grant Park; Leap Frog Bridge and Suspension V, installed in the Lincoln Park/Lakeview neighborhood; High Beam, being exhibited at St. Michael Church in Old Town; and Three Sheets to the Wind, soon to be exhibited at Key West, Florida. He also creates figurative sculptures, including Dalmatian Family, donated to the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital and installed in the 12th floor sky lobby in front of a full-size fire truck cab. Kids love it! Instantané doesn't just benefit the people of Wilmette. Chris says the warm Wilmette welcome given to his sculpture invigorated his own creative enthusiasm.
My Process: From Conception to Installation
  • Folding Forms
  • Grant Park, Chicago, IL