The Lorient apartments in Morningside feature two outdoor sculptures by James Gabbert: Torch, prominently located at the intersection of France Avenue and Sunnyside Road, and Five Sails, Five Harbors in the courtyard around the corner on Sunnyside. Less obvious than the sculptures themselves are their connections to one of Edina’s most iconic stores and to America’s most famous monument.
Gabbert knew as a child that he wanted to be an artist, but raising a family and running his family’s furniture store in the Galleria (Gabberts, of course) required all his attention, time and energy for 30 years. When he retired, he immediately returned to art, specifically to welding and the creation of three-dimensional forms, including Torch and Five Sails, Five Harbors.
The Lorient apartment building is named after a town in northwestern France, which Gabbert took as his inspiration for these sculptures. Located on the Atlantic coast in Brittany, Lorient was the port from which many emigrants from France left for the United States; emigration from Brittany
continued throughout the 1950s and 1960s.
Recognizing that the Statue of Liberty was a gift from France to the United States and that Lorient was a departure site for many emigrants, Gabbert designed Torch as an adaptation of the light held high by the Statue of Liberty in New York. Five Sails, Five Harbors relates more directly to the French city, which is called “Five Harbors” because of the distinct activities that take place in the port: fishing, commercial shipping, docking of passenger vessels, military work and yachting. The five stainless steel triangles also resonate with this neighborhood, with the sailboats on Lake Harriet only a mile to the east.
Gabbert believes public art significantly influences the creativity of a community, and he combines local scenery, national symbols and a French connection in his art for this busy and popular Edina intersection.
Contributed by Laura Westlund, a tour guide at the Weisman Art Museum and an art hound for Minnesota Public Radio.