A statue of a Chesapeake Bay waterman standing on the prow of his boat greets visitors to the Annmarie Sculpture Garden near the mouth of the Patuxent River in Solomons Maryland. Situated in the middle of a fountain, the subject stands on the prow of his boat, water dripping from the end of the large oyster tongs in his hands, as if he has just pulled them out of the bay. This creativity and thoughtfulness in presenting a subject naturally and faithfully makes Maryland native Toby Mendez the ideal sculptor to create the statue honoring famous fly fisher, Frederick native, and PVFF member Lefty Kreh.
While Mendez has experience with statues situated in fountain settings, placing a sculpture in a natural environment — it will stand in Culler Lake as if wading and depict Kreh casting — is new to him. “Putting it in a body of water and working it into the landscape makes this different and is one of things that drew me to the project.” Mendez said when I spoke to him on the phone recently. “We hope” he said, “that the way that it’s placed in the landscape will engage visitors to Baker Park and draw them in.”
Toby Mendez, a long time Frederick resident and Maryland sculptor, has an international reputation and an extensive résumé of commissioned works of public figures and athletes, including a statue honoring Thurgood Marshall on the grounds of the statehouse in Annapolis. He was also chosen by the Baltimore Orioles to sculpt the figures of six Hall of Fame players to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Camden Yards. You may have seen them if you’ve been to an Orioles game. While his sculptures grace ballparks and public spaces in a number of cities across the country, projects associated with Maryland history have a special place in his body of work.
Another aspect of the project that attracted Mendez relates to Lefty’s multi-faceted life and career. Although best known as fly angler, Lefty was also a gifted teacher, a prolific author, and an active and committed conservationist. “He had more dimensions than just fishing,” Mendez said. In order to carry on that legacy the project includes plans for a plaque contextualizing the statue so viewers can learn more about Kreh’s life.
Mendez is currently working on the maquette, a one-quarter scale clay version of the statue in which he will sculpt all of the details and look of the final finished work. Once that is complete, it will be enlarged to full-scale in clay. A mold will then be taken from the full-sized clay version into which bronze will be poured to make the finished statue, with the goal of having the sculpture complete by spring of 2023.
By Seth Denbo