A longtime Bexley resident is fundraising to restore a century-old sculpture located in Jeffrey Mansion.
Barb Jenks Triffon, a member of the Bexley community for the past 38 years, has begun a fundraising campaign with the Bexley Recreation & Parks Department for the restoration of Joyeuse Rencontre. The sculpture is made of marble and features a young boy preoccupied with a turtle. According to Triffon’s research, Mary (May) Elizabeth Cook, a prominent artist from the east side of Columbus, completed the sculpture in Paris in 1912. The piece, considered to be one of Cook’s best works, was later gifted to Jeffrey Mansion in the 1950s and has remained there ever since.
Triffon first came to know the sculpture over 25 years ago as a writer for This Week. Ever since, she has had a held a special interest for Cook and her work.
“When I did the article many decades ago…I was enchanted with what I learned about the woman…and the artwork,” said Triffon. “Her life spoke to me as a female and as an artist. She was tremendously ahead of her time.”
After volunteering for several years at the Bexley Recreation & Parks Department, which is located on the third floor of Jeffrey Mansion, Triffon came to better appreciate the sculpture’s importance amongst members of the community.
“They sit with it. They talk about it. Older people come in and they talk about their life and their experiences when they were a child,” said Triffon. “The neat thing about that sculpture is that it never gets old, and it reminds people of their childhood, it reminds them of their childhood in Bexley, and children…still gravitate to it…They just love to come and touch it and sit with it.”
Unfortunately, the sculpture has been loved to a point of disarray.
“It’s deeply soiled,” said Triffon. “The turtle is missing a head, it’s missing fingers on the little boy. The nose has been knocked off. Its head has been completely severed and pasted back on with not a good cement.”
According to Triffon, the Columbus Art Memorial has assessed the restoration of the sculpture to cost $10,200, but Keny Galleries in Columbus has estimated the sculpture to be worth $27,500 once restored.
Despite the cost, Triffon is determined to see Joyeuse Rencontre repaired.
“I felt that somebody needed to pay attention to it and restore it to its original glory,” said Triffon. “It’s a valuable piece of history. It’s a valuable piece of art history. It is a valuable piece of Bexley history.”
The Bexley Recreation & Parks Department Fundraising began taking in donations in early August. Barb Greiner, recreation supervisor of the department, says that the campaign is going well.
“We would love to have more, but it’s coming along slow but sure,” said Greiner. “I think once we get more word out about the fundraising, and with Barb’s knowledge and the notoriety of the artist that did it, I think that people will become more involved so far as the fundraising is going.”
Jackie Richardson, a third-year emerging media and studio art double major, is delighted to see Bexley placing special focus on this particular piece of art.
“As an artist myself, I don’t know how my art is going to degrade after I die, or even in 50 years,” Richardson said. “So to have someone that is passionate enough about my art to want to restore it, that is the biggest compliment.”
Richardson also said the restoration itself was significant because “To have artwork restored is very important, because we can still touch and see a part of history that would be degrading if we [didn’t] help it.”