By RICK GREEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Tests have been done to determine how badly the huge sculpture in Opechee Park — “Giant Indian: The Defiant One” — has deteriorated and the news is not good, but the final prognosis awaits expert analysis.
City Parks and Recreation Director Kevin Dunleavy said a company that assesses the condition of power poles examined the 36-foot, 12-ton red oak piece depicting the face and headdress of a Native American man.
Equipment used to test the wood featured a long thin blade that bores tiny holes to a depth of about 2 feet. The resistance to the boring is measured to determine the integrity of the wood.
“As we expected, the testing indicated that there is significant rot on the interior of the sculpture with a thin shell of wood on the outside that is intact,” Dunleavy said. “The thickness of the shell varies. I am awaiting a report on the boring test results which should give us a better understanding of the overall condition.”
He said he’s not sure yet whether it would be feasible to restore the statue.
The city has collected about $800 in public donations to preserve the statue, but the entire job would cost upwards of $7,000.
If it can be saved, another plea would be made for public donations, or a request could be made to see if the project could be funded out of city funds, Dunleavy said. If it's beyond saving, the donations would be returned and the structure would be torn down.
The city has attached a pole to the back of the wooden sculpture to prevent it from falling over. The city has put a fence behind the statue as a precaution to keep people away.
Peter Wolf Toth, the artist who created it 33 years ago, has agreed to donate his services to supervise any potential repairs, which would include hollowing out the back of the statue, installing more interior supports and replacing rotten material with wood-colored fiberglass.
He has done similar sculptures in every state as part of his “Whispering Giants” series, and has had to make such repairs elsewhere.
Toth fled his native Hungary as a child. He has said he views his art work as a gift to America in return for the gift of freedom he received from this country. A sculpture he created in Hawaii in 1988 allowed him to complete his goal of placing one in each of the 50 states.