Canadian artist’s sculpture lands at temporary Bellingham home

A 10-ton blue marble sculpture that eventually will be the focal artwork of a new waterfront park was unloaded at its temporary spot Thursday, Dec. 4.

“Nootka” is the creation of David Marshall of Vancouver, B.C., and has never been publicly exhibited since shortly after its creation more than 30 years ago. His widow, Carel Marshall, donated it in his memory.

A crane lifted the sculpture off a truck Thursday and to its temporary home outside the Parks and Recreation Department office at Cornwall Park, just inside the Meridian Street entrance. Eventually it will be moved to a new park going in at the foot of Cornwall Avenue.

The geometric sculpture was designed according to mathematical principles, according to Sculpture Northwest, the nonprofit group that worked to bring the piece to Bellingham. David Marshall was heavily influenced by Piero della Francesca, an expert in geometry and math who was a key figure in Early Renaissance art.

The stone is from Vancouver Island off the Nootka Sound. In 1977 some students from Capilano University discovered an abandoned marble quarry there. Marshall and his students, with help from a logging company, moved 50 tons of blue marble from the quarry to the university, according to Sculpture Northwest.

Marshall spent 900 hours during a 1983 outdoor carving symposium chipping, grinding and hand-finishing “Nootka” from a 12-ton chunk of marble.

George Drake, president of Sculpture Northwest, knew Marshall back then and admired the piece. Marshall offered to sell it, but Drake couldn’t afford the $60,000 price tag. The sculpture, unsold, remained at Marshall’s studio, unseen by others in the decades since.

Drake, who has helped bring sculptures to Big Rock Garden Park including other pieces by Marshall, asked Carel Marshall if they could work out a deal to get “Nootka” to Bellingham. He proposed a five-year loan, where his group would pay to bring the sculpture to Bellingham and if the family wanted it back after that the family would have to pay to return it. Plus he wanted to arrange rights of first refusal for other offers.

“Carel’s response was, ‘That’s too complicated. I’ll just give it to you,’” Drake said.

James King, the city’s parks and recreation director, said Drake deserves the credit for getting “Nootka” to Bellingham.

“It’s his connection that made this happen,” King said.

Four smaller Marshall works grace Big Rock Garden Park, three of them bronze and one in white marble. In 2001 the park held an exhibit of 30 of his pieces. For a 2013 exhibit at the park, “Tribute to David Marshall,” Mexican master sculptor Sebastian donated an 11-foot-tall enameled steel sculpture. He named it “Tribute” to Marshall, who died in 2006.

“Nootka” is one of four large-scale sculptures Marshall created. The others are in VanDusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver; a public sculpture garden in Helsingborg, Sweden; and in a small Serbian town known for its marble quarries, according to Sculpture Northwest.