Haddonfield welcomes a new sculpture, “Refugee from El Salvador”

Downtown Haddonfield welcomed its first ever ceramic sculpture on the corner of Kings Highway and Haddon Avenue a few weeks back.

Haddonfield welcomed a new sculpture, “Refugee from El Salvador” by artist Joe Brenman, on the corner of Kings Highway and Haddon Avenue two weeks ago that is expected to capture the attention of passersby and possibly raise a few questions.

The Haddonfield Outdoor Sculpture Trust installed the statue for many reasons, mostly for being a one-of-a-kind piece that Haddonfield has never had before.

The “timelessness” of the piece is why the sculpture was chosen, according to chair of the Haddonfield Outdoor Sculpture Trust, Stuart Harting. Using ceramic adds to how unique the sculpture is.

“We have had bronze pieces, aluminum pieces, pieces made of steel. This particular piece is ceramic so we have brought forth another sculpture medium,” Harting said.

The “Refugee from El Salvador” sculpture will be the first piece in Haddonfield constructed of ceramic.

The sculpture incorporates earthy tones and gives the viewer a glimpse of a man seeking refuge in the U.S at one of the most difficult times in his life. Brenman, who attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, constructed the piece from a live model, a refugee from El Salvador, at his studio in Philadelphia.

During the Civil War in the Central American country in the 1980s, many El Salvador natives left their home and fled to refugee sanctuaries in the U.S.

Brenman was contacted by a nun working at a church and refugee sanctuary in Philadelphia in 1986. She was inquiring if he could depict through his artwork a series of refugees located at various sanctuaries throughout the city. Of the six refugee sculptures he did at the time, this one was chosen as the anonymous young muse, captured in time, on the streets of Haddonfield.

The moment Brenman was notified by the Haddonfield Outdoor Sculpture Trust that his sculpture would be displayed in downtown Haddonfield, he was “excited” and “happy to be chosen.”

When asked why he chose to construct his piece using ceramic, he explained he had taught at the Clay Studio in Philadelphia and he was familiar with using ceramic clay, as he has utilized it from an early age.

Although incorporating ceramics as an artistic medium is comfortable for Brenman, the process takes time. While constructing the “Refugee from El Salvador,” like his other ceramic clay pieces, Brenman started with just clay, after molding and shaping it, it had to be thoroughly dried before placing it in the kiln.

“Sculpting is the most important part,” Brenman added.

After working on the piece periodically throughout the course of a month, Benman was able to complete the sculpture that is expected to turn some heads in town.

The importance of sculptures in any town, according to Harting, is to inspire and stimulate people.

“The sculptures add a tremendous visual stimulation. Art has been proven to be very beneficial to anybody who sees it,” Harting explained.

Brenman expressed similar sentiments saying, “Art is really important for all of us in so many ways. It beautifies things … it’s a part of everything we experience.’’

He elaborated on the importance of his piece, “Refugee from El Salvador.” With immigration and refugees being such a relevant topic 30 years later, the sculpture will hopefully be a representation of a relevant issue still appearing in today’s society as well as throughout the world, according to Brenman.

“One of the reasons the sculpture was picked is because of its relevance today,” Brenman said.

Although the sculpture is expected to remain in Haddonfield for only 12 months, it is available for purchase to residents who are interested. Anyone interested in finding out more about the sculpture can contact Harting through the HOST website at http://haddonfieldsculpture.org.