Public sculpture exploring interactions between human and environmental forces
By Aimee Lusty
Socrates Sculpture Park, located in Long Island City, has long been a patron venue for innovative public sculpture. Its mission combines the arts with the surrounding community, the history and landscape of Queens, as well as science, the natural world and environmental issues. In celebration of the park’s 30th anniversary they present the exhibition “LANDMARK,” a series of commissions and projects highlighting interactions between human and environmental forces. A few pieces stand out in their strong connection to ecological influences including works by Meg Webster, Casey Tang, Jessica Segall and ARTPORT_making waves.
Meg Webster’s Concave Room for Bees stands out from the generally flat landscape. From outside the installation the viewer is confronted by a six foot high dirt wall in contrast to the green grass lawn. Plants emerge from the top, with glimpses of purple, yellow, pink and orange flowers inviting the viewer to walk the circumference of the 70ft diameter earthwork. Entering through a narrow passage we can see the full form of the piece, a concave dome replete with plants in flower of varying heights, color and aroma. Webster has curated a selection of 35 native species of flowering plants, with intentions to bring a variety of local pollinators. Plants include sunflower, marigold, butterfly weed, echinacea, geranium and goldenrod. From inside the dome most of the peripheral view of the city is blocked, along with the light drone of traffic the air is flooded with the hum of bees and dragon flies.
In the shade by the East River is an altered piano installed vertically with a glass pane allowing viewers to see inside. This is Jessica Segall’s Fugue in B Flat, an appropriated piano turned bee hive. The introduced bees have made home among the strings and frame of the wooden piano, congregating into clusters. The buzz of the hive is amplified over a speaker system.
Nearby in a small angular plot of land, artist and horticulturist Casey Tang has established Urban Forest Lab, a maturing repository for edible herbs and rare perennial vegetables. Tang’s project introduces ideas of sustainability and human relation with food and future agriculture. Starting by excavating the site in 2014, Tang rebuilt the soil with compost and grew a cover crop for two years to further build up organic material. The edible forest garden is now home to cultivated varieties of plantain, sorrel, dandelion, strawberry, asparagus, kale, mint, lavender, onion, arugula, echinacea, valerian, anise, day lily and artichoke. It incorporates aesthetic elements of naturalistic wild gardens and forest gardens.
In the center of the field stands a storage container modified into a theater, screening videos compiled by ARTPORT_making waves. The series titled Cool Stories from When the Planet Gets Hot addresses issues of climate change, deforestation, stewardship, and sustainability.
Additional artists in “LANDMARK” include Abigail Deville, Brendan Fernandes, Cary Leibowitz, Hank Willis Thomas and Jonathan Odom.
The show will run through August 28.
For more information visit Socrates Sculpture Park at 32-01 Vernon Blvd in Long Island City or online at http://socratessculpturepark.org