Brittany, in France, has one of the world's largest concentration of standing stones, which were placed there by prehistoric humans for reasons that remain mysterious. They stand large and upright, and to contemplate them is to think back to the lives of early ancestors.

Artist Viviane Le Courtois, who grew up in Brittany, had these stones in mind when she created "Rescued Memories," a work she recently installed in Boulder Central Park on 13th Street in Boulder.

"I had the idea of first making a standing stone," Le Courtois said. "I wanted to make a place where (you) look at them, reflect and wonder why they are there."

"Rescued Memories" features a mandolin, lower right, from Lyons musician David Tiller, who lost his house and home recording studio.
"Rescued Memories" features a mandolin, lower right, from Lyons musician David Tiller, who lost his house and home recording studio. (Quentin Young/ Longmont Times-Call )

The purpose of the Brittany standing stones is lost to time, but Le Courtois created "Rescued Memories" in response to the 2013 Colorado flooding. To view the piece is to wade into the hundreds of personal memories that the flooding roiled.

The work is shaped like a boulder and has a stucco finish. Embedded in the stucco are white, porcelain objects, such as a teacup, a picture frame, a mandolin and a doll. To create these objects, Le Courtois used items caught in the floodwaters to make molds, or she re-created them based on descriptions from their owners. She calls the objects "fossils." Part of her work on "Rescued Memories" was a campaign to collect items, drawings and stories from people who were hit by the flooding. She went to the main Boulder Library, Boulder History Museum, Firehouse Art Center in Longmont, the streets of Lyons and Jamestown and other locations throughout the affected areas during her collection quest.

She reconstructed a mandolin from David Tiller, a Lyons musician who lost his house and home recording studio. She reproduced an old tape measure that had been passed down in the family of Lyons artist Priscilla Cohan. Le Courtois included a clog from a mother in Jamestown whose daughter wore it while escaping a mudslide in the middle of the night.

Le Courtois herself was affected by flooding, though not in so dramatic a fashion. She's a program manager at Downtown Aurora Visual Arts, and rainwater flooded her studio. She had to throw away some childrens' artwork and supplies.

"Rescued Memories" was commissioned by the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art and the city of Boulder. It's part of the larger "The Flood Project: Rising Above & Restoring Boulder Through Art."

The flooding is the piece's immediate subject, but Le Courtois intends it to be about the more general idea of things we become attached to and how we are affected when those things are gone. She is planning a companion book to go with the sculpture. It will include photographs, drawings and stories, and she expects it to be published near the end of January. Copies will be available online, at BMoCA and the main Boulder library, she said.

Quentin Young can be reached at 303-684-5319 or quentin@dailycamera.com.