Sculptor Martha Jackson Jarvis and her daughter, fellow sculptor Njena Surae Jarvis, received an email this week.
It was a congratulatory missive telling them that they were selected to create the first and largest art piece in the 11th Street Bridge Park over the Anacostia River in D.C.
The duo’s design, called “Anacostia’s Sunrise/Sunset Portal,” is a 20-foot glass mosaic sculpture which beat out hundreds of other submissions from around the county. Their piece garnered a $400,000 commission, according to a news release.
“Your reaction is always, ‘is this real?’” the younger artist said, laughing with her mother.
The park is set to open in 2025, becoming the district’s first elevated park. The space is designed to link neighborhoods on the east and west sides of the river. And, to transform the piers of the old 11th Street bridge that had become an eyesore.
“It’s an old community,” Martha Jackson Jarvis said. “So it’s really something to see young people moving into the community, raising their families again. I think it’s really a landmark event to see that this landscape is opened up to the full community.”
The artists said the Anacostia was their muse on this project. Their design features 11 portals that resemble a wave pulled from the river. The glass mosaic rings set in blue, red and green colors, Njena Jarvis said.
“It has the color palette of a sunset,” she said. “The form of the sculpture is an abstraction of the sun and area reflected on the river.”
This isn’t the first time the elder Jarvis has worked on projects linked to the Anacostia. More than 20 years ago, she completed a mosaic that wrapped around the Anacostia Metro Station. Her designs pull on the beauty of nature, with many of them incorporating glass mosaics.
Njena Jarvis is an artist in her own right. A graduate of the district’s Duke Ellington School of the Arts, her work has been featured at the National Portrait Gallery.
But, when the two work together, the artists in them want to take charge. But, the mother-daughter team knows compromise key.
“When we don’t agree, we work at it until we do agree,” Martha Jackson Jarvis said.
“Sometimes it gets rough. And, my husband says, ‘I’m going to stay out of here until you two figure out what you’re doing.””
And, they always do.