A new bronze sculpture of a south Florida mangrove tree with pelicans perching in its branches was installed in the plaza in front of Palmetto Bay Village Hall on Oct. 17. Finishing work was scheduled to be completed before the State of the Village Address on Oct. 22.
The permanent sculpture by artist Michael McLaughlin replaces a loaned sculptural piece and was acquired through the Art in Public Places program.
Travis Kendall, the village’s Planning and Zoning administrator, explained how it came about.
“We did a request for proposals, and then that process was reviewed by the Art in Public Places Board which made the selections that were forwarded to the village council members,” Kendall said.
“They voted to approve it and they commissioned the piece. The artist took about eight months at the foundry casting all the items and then came down here to weld the pieces together.”
Kendall explained that the Art in Public Places program is a fund created by ordinance that provides for the city to have these types of art pieces available for the community to enjoy. Many local communities have similar programs.
He said that working with the artist was enlightening.
“I’m not particularly familiar with the foundry process, so it was interesting to see how it came together and how the molding was done,” Kendall said. “It’s exciting to have an item of this caliber in front of Village Hall that the public can enjoy when they come here.”
The award-winning artist, Michael McLaughlin, resides in Torrington, CT, and has received commissions from and exhibited in numerous cities around the country. He always bases his art upon nature.
“What inspired me for this particular project is when I took a journey down there to learn about the community and surrounding areas I went over to the Thalatta Estate and I was amazed by all the wildlife I saw in such a short distance,” McLaughlin said. “I walked out toward the water and I saw a crocodile, a tortoise, a heron, and a couple seconds later I saw two pelicans flying around.
“I consider myself a scholarly naturalist, I guess, so I try to learn as much about our environment and the habitats as possible,” he said. “I was impressed with how unique that area is for wildlife. I was totally in awe of what I saw while I was there doing my research. It’s so beautiful there.”
The sculpture was made of pieces that were created using the traditional method of sand casting. McLaughlin said he prefers doing it that way.
“I like the texture that you get from the sand much more than the slick, smooth quality that you get from wax casting,” said McLaughlin. “A lot of the elements of the sculpture were cast from real botanical elements — real branches, roots and tree trunks — like found objects. It lends to the authenticity and you pick up a lot of the detail in the bark and the wood. But I want to make sure to let everybody know that no live trees were harmed.”
Although mounted on a concrete base, the sculpture will have mulch and landscaping around the tree’s “roots” to add to the reality. McLaughlin said he is appreciative of having been chosen by Palmetto Bay.
“I was deeply honored,” he said. “The public art process is very competitive. There are a lot of very talented artists out there, and the finalists that I met are all highly respected, so I can’t say how pleased I was that the art committee, the village council and the residents selected my work to be installed at village hall. That’s probably one of the most prestigious pieces I’ve ever worked on. I wanted to make sure everything was done absolutely to my best ability.”
For more information about McLaughlin visit his website at www.mjmsculpture.com.