The Socrates Sculpture Park is celebrating 30 years of Public art and community leadership.
In a former abandoned 2-acre landfill lot sits a magical public garden that honors artistic expressions and the land we live in. The Socrates Sculpture Park is located a block from the Noguchi Museum at the crossing of Broadway and Vernon Boulevard in the neighborhood of Astoria, Queens. The public outdoor museum serves as a cultural hub where emerging and established artists can play and dream up ideas for the world to come admire.
”To be outdoors is an essential thing for living sculpture, and we have that here,”
Mark di Suvero– Sculptor & Founder
For the big celebratory presentation “Landmark” the Park enlisted artists Meg Webster, Abigail DeVille, Brendan Fernandes, Cary Leibowitz, Jessica Segall, Casey Tang, Hank Willis Thomas, and the curatorial collective ARTPORT_making waves.
Meg Webster’s Concave Room for Bees, is a natural sculptural installation that will continue to evolve with time just like any living organism would. Unlike the art works we normally encounter, Webster encourages the viewer to interact with the ecosystem by touching, smelling, hearing and seeing. I decided to go barefoot during this session, and it felt liberating and refreshing. “The circular earth bowl, comprising more than 400 cubic yards of fertile soil will be dispersed across the landscape, addressing the park’s urgent need for nutrient rich topsoil.” Webster’s influenced by the Land Art Movement allows her to use the earth as her canvas, and natural medium such as flowers, rocks and dirt as tools to morph the land into vivid works of natural art #MotherNatureApproved
Casey Tang’s Urban Forest Lab also joined the party. The self-sustained urban forest has evolved into a “living repository” where community locals and visitors can learn about sustainability, ecology, agriculture and social responsibility to the land we live in.
During your visit take a break to admire the view of the East river while interacting with Open Seating a presentation of design chairs by Jonathan Odom and painted by volunteers, staff and youth participants from the park’s education programs.
ARTPORT_making waves’ presentation was one of our refuges from the sun during our visit. The shipping container/screening room plays a video collection from “Cool Stories for When The Planet Gets Hot series” the group’s biennial competitions where they address climate change and sustainability.
Abigail Deville relied on the site’s historic role as ferry slip and landfill to address relevant issues of immigration, gentrification and public neglect. Deville’s makeshift ship made up of found materials is meant to represent the Native Americans who once inhabited the land, and the people who followed. “From the history of who first got here until right now—the constant shifting, moving, and displacement of people.”
Jessica Segall’s Fugue in B♭ is another genius must see installation. From afar your eyes might assume it’s just a piano turned on its side, but once up-close (but not too close!) you’ll see the piano has been re-purposed as a bee colony. As the bees go about their daily activities the work becomes a sound installation. Genius and Eco-friendly! The installation is also “homage to nineteenth-century Astoria which was once a major industrial port and hub of piano manufacturing.”
One of my favorite contemporary artists also contributed to this wonderful collective presentation. Hank Willis Thomas “From Cain’t See in the Morning Till Cain’t See at Night” (from the Strange Fruit series) is now part of the park’s Broadway Billboard series. It greets visitors as they enter the park and helps set the tone for the rest of the presentation. “Viewers are left to consider the image’s ambiguous implications about the relationship between land, labor, and American history and culture.”
Other artists contributed to the movement with more subtle but equally powerful statements. Brendan Fernandes custom caution tape which reads “Until We Fearless” suggestive to be in the voice of a non-native English speaker “confounds an administrative mechanism, provoking questions about the language of authority and assumptions about borders and boundaries.” It also resonated with me on the fears of terrorism we’ve encountered post the 911 attacks. Cary Leibowitz “emblazons the park’s Bobcat loader with playful bumper stickers that undercut the seriousness of this prototypical emblem of masculinity.”
“The park’s existence is based on the belief that reclamation, revitalization and creative expression are essential to the survival, humanity and improvement of our urban environment.”
Socrates is open 365 days a year from 10am to sunset.
Photos By:Erica Genece