Dancing Again at the Field Gallery
For anyone who has strolled past the lawns of the Field Gallery in West Tisbury in recent months there has been a statue-shaped void where Jay Lagemann’s The Dance normally rests. The piece — a bronze-cast sculpture of five Matisse-like dancers — has been on an extended journey to a foundry in China since early last December.
But on Sunday, after nine months overseas, the iconic metal dancers finally made their way home, returning to the Field Gallery with a new jade green finish.
The trip abroad was prompted by the recent sale of three stainless steel copies of the statue, Mr. Lagemann told the Gazette by phone on Monday. Looking to duplicate the statue for the new buyers and hoping to try a slightly new style, Mr. Lagemann shipped The Dance to the Tany Foundry near Shanghai, where it was replicated using a special fabrication process, new to Mr. Lagemann.
“You can cast stainless steel but it’s very hard to get the polish,” Mr. Lagemann said. “They use the original as a model and then take sheets of stainless steel and they bend them and warp them, and then weld them up.”
The result is a copy with the same wiry playfulness as the original, but this one, Mr. Lagemann explained, has a gleaming mirror-like finish. “It looks sort of like a Jeff Koons.”
Mr. Lagemann, who began sculpting in 1975, is best known for his distinctive metal sculptures — vibrant creations that can be seen on Island roads, like the Swordfish Harpooner statue at Menemsha Harbor, and big city streets, like the Swinging Jenny statue in midtown New York.
The Dance, one of Mr. Lagemann’s best known works, has had a home at the Field Gallery since 2014, when Mr. Lagemann shifted his plans to install the piece at a friend’s home and gave the statue to the gallery instead.
In its many years on display, the life-sized bronze statue has also traveled far and wide — from Lancaster, Pa., where the original statue was cast, to Easton Md., where it was showcased at a museum show in 2014, and to Summit, N.J., where it was displayed as part of the Summit Public Art Program in 2015. Before the most recent trip to China, the mold had even traveled as far as Thailand to be cast and copied at a local foundry there.
“This is a sculpture that likes to travel,” Mr. Lagemann said with a laugh. “It’s all over the place.”
Mr. Lagemann said he is also showcasing one of the new steel copies in his personal sculpture garden, Wild Island Sculpture. “This is the first time I’ve had one of these dances at my sculpture garden and I feel great having it.”
In addition to The Dance, Mr. Lagemann also sent his Family Sculpture — familiarly known as the Obama sculpture for its prominent display during the Obamas’ presidential visits to the Island — to China to undergo the same fabrication process. The new stainless steel Family Sculpture is also on display at his home, but Mr. Lagemann said he hopes to show it publicly on the Island in the future.
“I love it personally. I came here as a six year old with my family — this is a family place,” said Mr. Lagemann. “I think it’s a great sort of symbol of what the Vineyard is all about and...it would be fun to see where people think it should be.”
As for The Dance, after a long trip to China and a multi-month shipping delay due to the pandemic, Mr. Lagemann is glad to finally have the sculpture back in its home at the Field Gallery.
“It’s funny, I made them for my family and that’s, I think, why they’re full of happiness and joy,” he said. “It’s wonderful that other people feel it — that’s the most important thing in a way, is that my sculpture, makes people happy. That’s what gives me joy.”