Reverence is a sculpture created by Jim Sardonis in 1989. The sculpture depicts two tails of whales "diving" into a sea of grass and is meant to symbolize the fragility of the planet. The tails were made from 36 tons of African black granite and stand 12-13 feet tall.
The sculpture was originally commissioned by British metals trader David Threlkeld, who was then a resident of Randolph, Vermont. The tails were to be at the entrance to a conference center that Threlkeld was planning, but financing fell through and Threlkeld moved to Arizona. After ten years at this Randolph site, they were sold and then moved to Technology Park in South Burlington where Ben & Jerry's ice cream has its corporate headquarters.
The Whale Tails, as the sculpture is more commonly known by local residents, is a landmark of sorts on the side of Interstate 89 between Exits 12 and 13 in Vermont. The sculpture is located at Coordinates: , on the right side of the north-bound lane. The sculpture has graced the covers of at least two books, Weird New England by Joseph A. Citro and the art history textbook A World of Art by Henry Sayre. It was included in Weird New England because the sculpture is well-known statewide, has an unusual location, and depicts sea creatures in New England's only landlocked state. A World of Art also includes a CD-ROM with video of the creation of the sculpture.
This sculpture is documented in the Smithsonian's Save Outdoor Sculpture! database. The sculpture was examined for Save Outdoor Sculpture! in 1992 while it was located along Interstate 89, west of exit 4, Randolph Center, Vermont.
Whales in Vermont
Fossils of marine invertebrates found in the Champlain Valley reveal that Vermont was underwater during the Paleozoic Era, more than 300 million years ago, long before the advent of mammals. In recent geologic history, the last glacier melted away about 12,500 years ago, and the sea poured in. This inland sea was inhabited by many of the animals that inhabit the North Atlantic today, including mollusks, sea urchins, squid, herring, cod, salmon, seals, and belugas. In 1849, while constructing a railroad, workmen uncovered the bones of a beluga whale in a swampy area in Charlotte, Vermont. The fossil beluga is housed in the Perkins Museum at the University of Vermont. By about 10,000 years ago, the Champlain Valley had risen above sea level. The valley’s waters drained northward into the St. Lawrence River, a major waterway in Canada connecting the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean. Over 20 fossils of ancient beluga whales have been found around Lake Champlain.
Jim Sardonis is a jewelry maker as well. Some of his jewelry is based on Reverence including rings depicting the two tails. Other sculptures by Sardonis can be found throughout Vermont as well as outside the state at such places as New England Aquarium, Yale University, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, and Phillips Exeter Academy.
Sardonis has said about his work:
|“||My work is inspired by natural forms -- human, plant, and animal. I seek opportunities to use my work to emphasize the kinship and interconnectedness of all living things and the importance of the survival of each of them.||”|
- Joseph A. Citro, Joe Citro's weird New England (New York: Sterling Publishing Co., 2005) ISBN 978-1-4027-3330-7
- Henry M. Sayre, A World of Art, 4th ed. (Upper Saddle River, N.J. : Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2005) ISBN 978-0-13-189262-0
- Save Outdoor Sculpture! Inventories: Reverence, http://siris-artinventories.si.edu/ipac20/ipac.jsp?&profile=all&source=~!siartinventories&uri=full=3100001~!310396~!0#focus (accessed December 20, 2009).
- Charlotte the Vermont Whale: How the fossil was found, http://www.uvm.edu/whale/HowFound.html (accessed December 19, 2009).
- William Wallace Higbee, Around the Mountains: Historical Essays about Charlotte, Ferrisburgh, and Monkton. (Charlotte, VT: Charlotte Historical Society, 1991) ISBN 978-0-914960-88-1