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VAN CORTLANDT - THEME AND RATIONALE

 

THEME : "WATER"

 

OVERVIEW


Now in its fifth year, the "Model ­to ­Monument" Program is a collaboration between the New York City Parks Department and the Art Students League of New York, led by director and renown sculptor, Greg Wyatt, in which 7 fellows, selected through a nomination and juried application process, each produce 1 individual public sculpture for Riverside Park South on Manhattan's West Side; and 1 collaborative work for Van Cortlandt Park, which we present here today.

 

HANDOUTS


1. Packet with the text of this presentation and a sort of visual scrapbook to give you a feel of the process

2. Parts of the engineering drawings

 

THE SCULPTURE


"Water" is large abstract fish­like form evoking impressions of water. It stands 16 feet high, with a 8 x 9 foot footprint, in stainless steel.

Walking from East to West, between the Swimming Pool and the John Kieran Nature Trail running along Van Cortlandt Lake, the viewer comes upon a small clearing with a sudden view of an enormous wireframe fish forming a sinuous twist made up of shapely bands of steel. From the top, the fluke of the tail runs down with the sense of rolling waves and culminates to form the head of a water drop, as if generating the ripples that make up the internal structure of the fish­wave now self­reflecting form.

The Van Cortlandt House Museum directly to the North stands on landscape high above which drops quickly down a Southward hill and stairs to meet the sculpture and beyond it the wetland viewing platform beyond it.

To reflect a moment on this landscape, the location can be understood as a kind of subconscious nexus evocative of this year’s theme, “Water”. That is, the four sides surrounding the sculpture take on different perspectives on water. The Nature Center to the North (by the House Museum) we can say, represents a sort of exploratory, scientific perspective on “water”. To the West, the Pool is a kind of engineered water; as are the Sport Fields/Parade Ground or the plumbing of the public facilities. By contrast, the East presents Van Cortlandt Lake, represents water herself, the raw, actual, form. As with the South, the wetlands platform this a meditation on the rich ecosystem of the Tibbett’s Brook watershed, nature’s engineering, perhaps.

It is appropriate that a sculpture should find itself exactly at the middle, between science and nature, the engineering of material vs. the patterns of nature (this year’s Riverside Park theme).

That is: Art is the projection of nature onto form through the prism of the queer and wonderful human mind.

 

THE PROCESS

  • August: met at Van Cortlandt, did a "stake out", taking physical measurements and analytical drawings, clocking analysis
  • October: learned theme from Park director Margot Perron "water"; conducted research: depiction/representation/usages of water in art history
  • November: met with Dennis Burton, at Van Cortlandt, for overview of ecology of park, water management in Van Cortlandt and in New York City; further visual, historical, and background research. Established thematic goals, investigative process. Development of individual models. Team revisions and reconceptions, new models.
  • December: ollaborative honing in and refinement of shared design, sub teams to handle various design elements to discuss with group.
  • January: evelopment of midsize model, mid­year show, presenting of model/rationale/etc February:aterials research, getting quotes from vendors, major design pivot (more on that), developed a new design collaboration framework, major revision, final design
  • March: refinements, design touch up, vendor research, prep work and specification for engineering drawings
  • April: ent to Van Cortlandt to visually test out water drop

An anecdote about the collaborative process:

Over 8 months, we met for innumerable hours, came up with upwards of 40 separate design conceptions, and 20 models for this 7­person collaborative work. At a public showing of our “final” design, we revealed a 4­foot tall mid­size model that represented a fleshed out collaborative work with well thought through rationale, highly thematic, careful aesthetic formulation, and hard­won consensus. However, upon review & soul­searching reflection, we found to our dismay that the work more bland than bold, more pedantic than thematic; overworked, while at the same time, unfinished.

We decided that the City and Van Cortlandt Park deserved better. After agreeing to a far more simple set of principles we radically modified our process framework and produced further studies, models, this time with far stronger results (while retaining some key strains from the original discussions and development). But this time, we were careful to protect the transcendental and expressive nature of art.

This point is slippery, so to expound further:

Here's an excerpt from lmsted.or(a website about Frederick Law Olmstead):

Olmsted used the style of the Beautiful ­ or as he usually called it, the pastoral ­ to create a sense of the peacefulness of nature and to soothe and restore the spirit. The Pastoral style was the basic mode of his park designs, which he intended to serve as the setting for "unconscious or indirect recreation." The chief purpose of a park, he taught, was "an effect on the human organism by an action of what it presents to view, which action, like that of music, is of a kind that goes back of thought, and cannot be fully given the form of words."

It is this “nconscious or indirect recreation” hat we have tried so diligently, at last, to accomplish, and what we instinctively felt as artists was intrinsic in our commitment to deliver an artwork worthwhile for Van Cortlandt Park. hat is, sculpture seeks to directly address its viewer with an enlarged, emotional expression. By doing so, it fulfills its utieonnected to the purpose of the public park itself.

Thanks. The team. 

 


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