Archive

Phillip Lopate describes the shape of Manhattan Island as‘a luxury liner, permanently docked, going nowhere’. This feeling of being tethered to the land, unable to get to sea, was a feature of New York life for much of the twentieth century. New York was an island without a coast. The West Side piers that once welcomed the Lusitania spent most of the twentieth century crumbling or behind barbed wire, while the East Side’s coves and points were cut off from pedestrians by six lanes of the Robert Moses-designed Franklin Delano Roosevelt Drive. It wasn’t much easier to reach the shores of Brooklyn, Queens or the Bronx, either: with a few exceptions, they were largely reserved for municipal or industrial use, and easiest to see from the Staten Island Ferry (en route to the borough with the most beaches). Now, slowly, the city is reclaiming its shoreline, with some spectacular results.

Scarlet Tanager by Nicole Haroutunian

This story is an outtake from Silent Beaches, Untold Stories: New York City's Forgotten Waterfront. Read more about the book, and order it, here

OBJECT: Scarlet Tanager, Oil, Toxins

BODY OF WATER: Newtown Creek

Sunday morning, we’re sopping up Heinz beans with toast, taking our eggs over easy, drinking down restorative pints of Guinness. The pub is cool and dark, shelter against the bright, beautiful summer day outside. It’s not the same spot we were drinking at last night, but it’s right around the corner.

Erin’s college roommate, Judy, is staying with us at our parents’. I couldn’t wait to have Erin back home again, but three of us girls in the bedroom I’d just gotten used to having to myself, well. The boys, Eddie and Ralph, aren’t staying there, too—God forbid—but they were here last night and are back this morning, so they might as well be.

Feeling ok? Erin mouths. Although she’s only a year and half older than me, college has made the gap more pronounced. I let her baby me the same way she let me tag along last night. I turned eighteen last month so it’s finally legal for me to trail her into a bar. I nod. My waking headache recedes with each greasy bite of breakfast.

“You do look alike,” Judy says, eyes flitting between Erin and me. “It’s just your hair is a different color.” She twists a piece of her long light hair with Erin’s: same-same. “People ask if we’re sisters all the time.”

I cram a piece of sausage into my mouth.

“I said that,” Eddie says. “Didn’t I ask you that when we met?”

“You make it sound so long ago,” Erin says. She’s practically fluttering her eyelashes. “It was just last night!”

This is news to me. I thought these boys were college friends, too.

“No, no,” Judy sets me straight. “They’re in the Coast Guard.” She says it as if there’s romance to this.

I raise two fingers to my brow, salute.

“Cute,” Ralph says. I see my sister and her friend exchange a look. “You girls up for a walk?” he asks. “Some of the guys spotted a crazy oil spill while they were on a patrol the other day. It’s near here. Me and Eddie want to check it out.”

“Gross,” Judy says.

I was focused on catching up with Erin last night, edging between her and Judy for a little of her time—well, that and drinking beer after beer—but I remember now, Ralph hanging around me, Ralph buying me some of those beers. He’s definitely the more appealing of the two boys, but I still don’t want to encourage it. What would Judy and my sister do with only one guy between them? I’m the obvious fifth wheel. “I should go home,” I say.

“Yeah, you don’t have to come,” Erin says to me, proving my point. A gold claddagh ring, her one adornment today, glints as she gestures for our check. The ring was our grandmother’s. I used to think that once I got to be Erin’s age, I would start to accumulate some of Nanna’s “special pieces,” too, but it turns out I will never be Erin’s age.

“She does have to come,” Ralph says. “Of course she does.”

We make our way out onto the sidewalk and let the boys lead the way under the pigeon-haunted looping arcs of the seven train, across the frenetic eight lanes of Queens Boulevard and down bustling Greenpoint Avenue, as if we weren’t the ones who are from here. Me, I don’t follow boys, but I do follow my sister. I always have. Some girls gain weight when they go away to school, but Erin, I see in the sunlight, casts only a sliver of shadow. Our mother, entranced with canned goods and proud of her perpetually full pantry, whispered to me on the way out this morning that I best make sure my sister finished her breakfast. I’ll report back that she did, although it was Eddie who ate the last of her eggs.

Ralph walks backward for a block, asking us how long we’ve lived here (forever), how we like it (it’s where we’re from, what does liking it have to do with it), if there were any good spots to buy comic books (what?). In the early summer sun, his eyes are dark and luminous, like Coca Cola in a glass.

He turns back around and I tug on Erin’s elbow. “Who are these people?”

Judy laughs, as if I’d been talking to her. She casts a pointed eye at the rear of Eddie’s tight jeans. “Like, do you need any more information?”

Erin wraps her arm around my neck, a brittle vice grip. “We’re just having a nice day,” she says, squeezing. We cross over the LIE, the traffic rushing underneath us, to and from Manhattan. We’re coming up on the cemetery where we’ve got a family mausoleum. It’s not one of the fancy ones with stained glass and carved angels, just a plain old grey stone box.

Opposite the cemetery is a crumbling brick school, sort of gothic with turrets at the top. It used to terrify us as children. Kids would sneak in to ghost-hunt at Halloween every year. When I was twelve and Erin was fourteen, she went with a bunch of older kids and I thought I would die waiting for her to come home. When she finally did, she had this story of how she hadn’t seen a ghost but had felt one, a cold cloak touching all of her body, an icy feeling she couldn’t shake. It was with her, she said, still with her, right there in our bedroom. She climbed into my bed and cried. I still don’t know what really happened in that empty building that night, but I know it didn’t really have to do with a ghost.

I sweep my hand across the landscape. “This is called Blissville,” I say. "Really."

Judy sniffs the air. Her nose wrinkles, porcine, unflattering. I am glad we’re moving toward the smell.

“That’s the Creek,” I add.

“Are you starting at New Paltz in the fall, too?” Ralph asks me. “Joining your sis?”

I shake my head; Judy slips her hands into her back pockets, pushing her chest forward. I almost say that she’ll have Erin to herself again soon enough but instead I pull my tortoiseshell sunglasses from my bag, slide them up my nose. “Nearby,” I say. “Vassar.”

Eddie laughs, nudges Ralph. “Girls school, huh,” he says. “Nice.”

“It’s been co-ed for nearly ten years,” I say. Eddie’s head is going pink in the sun, the skin exposed by his military shearing.

Ralph’s face is pink, too, but likely from the embarrassment of being associated with Eddie. That the pale buffoon is who my sister seems to have her eye on is a disappointment.

We’re coming up on a chain link fence. On the other side, Newtown Creek. Because the sky is a flawless blue, from here it sparkles like any normal body of water, despite the grey industrial tangle on either side of it. Ralph holds a piece of fence to the side so we can duck through. Some prior explorers or ne’er-do-wells have cut it with sheers. The ground is silty, strewn with broken glass, tires, jagged flinty rocks. Judy picks across it in her raffia platforms, fighting a scowl, trying to seem game. She lifts up her left foot, inspecting the sole. Erin and I are in matching blue Dr. Scholl’s, keeping us out of the muck. We head straight for the green-slimed pier at the water’s edge, trying to see below the surface.

“I expected black,” Erin says. “Plumes, streaks.”

“It just looks like water,” Judy says. “Regular, dirty, disgusting New York City water. I’m from Long Beach—we should go there next week.”

They retreat; Eddie follows. I crouch. It’s true that there’s no dramatic, see-it-from-the-sky oil spill evident, but up close, the water looks psychedelic, slicked with a purple-silver film. It doesn’t look regular. Ralph comes up beside me, hitches up his jeans and squats down to inspect.

“So, is it the oil spill that gives it that smell? No,” Ralph says.

“Our uncle worked at this factory,” I say. Erin perches on a slab of cement overlooking the water. I worry for tetanus, but join her. Eddie takes the corner on her other side, his thigh pressed against hers. I wish she were wearing jeans like the rest of us, but Erin is always in a dress—this one, red and blue vertical stripes with big white buttons down the front.

“More like a plant,” Erin corrects me. “Rendering animals for glue. For a while when we were little we thought he stole pets to burn up—it was explained to us too quickly.”

“Really, it was scraps from butchers, house pets that had passed, police horses,” I say. “He told us that once they even broke down a circus elephant.”

Ralph hovers between us and the water, toeing a role of waterlogged rug with his brown boot. Erin pulls her hair to the side, exposing her freckled neck. As Eddie eyes it, I notice that Judy is leaning on him, the curve of her hip, where her shirt is riding up, snug against his side. Erin tips her head closer to his, and he takes her hand. Together, they examine her gold ring, Erin explaining the Irish iconography, the clasped hands and heart.

I talk over her: “He lost his job a few years back when the place got caught pumping all kinds of rancid fat and stuff into the water. It’s still in there, I bet. Hence, the smell.”

“God, can we talk about something other than rotting carcasses?” Judy says. She is a breath away from a huff, a toe-tap away from a stomping tantrum. She wants attention and she is not getting it, not from anyone. I almost feel bad. Her eyes snap from Erin to Eddie at a dizzying clip. She tosses her head, looks to Ralph now. He’s still listening to me. “Like, anything?” she says. “Like, what should we do tonight?”

“Our uncle told us about an explosion that happened over here when he first started working at the plant,” I say. Judy wanting to change the subject is all I need to keep going. “The crew heard this terrific boom and then, sailing up three stories into the air, they saw a manhole cover. Flipping like a coin. They started calling heads or tales.” I point up at the sky, draw an arc with my finger. As I do, I actually see something in the sky. A glint of red.

Ralph squints up at where I’m pointing. “Is that a balloon?”

No one else sees it; they’re not looking hard enough. “Right there,” we say, tracing its flight. “There!” I shield my eyes with my hand, pick my way down the shore of the creek, following the little flutter. The smell of the water intensifies as I skirt a rusted cluster of rebar. This area is still active during the week, but on a Sunday, it’s just us, the charred, caustic smell, the water, the sky. The red flicker settles on the bare branch of a slim, gnarled tree.

“It’s a bird!” I say. It is palm-sized, if that, scarlet with black wings and a black tail. Its peppercorn eyes, level with its pale beak, give it a serious look, despite its festive plumage.

Ralph, right behind me, says, “Well, what did you think it would be?”

“It’s the end of June and that tree is dead,” I say. “The water is filled with oil and decay. I didn’t think it would be a perfect little bird.”

“I’m just teasing,” Ralph says. “Maybe it’s like a canary in a mine, you know?”

“Yeah,” I say. “If it dies, we’ll know that we need to get out of here quick.”

The bird makes a surprisingly throaty sound: chick-burr, chick-burr. Ralph says, “It knows we’re talking about it.”

“It must be used to being watched,” I say. “I don’t think there are many birds like this left in Queens.”

“Bird watchers call the bird that hooks them, that makes them want to buy their first pair of binoculars, their spark bird,” Ralph says.

I stare into those sugary eyes of his. “Are you sparked?”

He opens and closes his hands over his head, wiggling his fingers like fireworks. I laugh as he sparkles, drawing closer to me. I flash forward to the fall, to my own college roommate—who will she be?—asking about Queens, about my last summer there. Me telling her, “There was this guy in the Coast Guard…”

A low-flying plane roars by, descending into LaGuardia. The noise startles the bird as much as it does us. It has a bit of a false start, a stutter that gets it only as far as another branch on the tree, crying low—chick-burr, chick-burr—but then it is off, away and gone.

When the bird noise and plane noise clear, what is left is the whooshing of my own blood in my ears as Ralph leans in, the crackle of sparks, sparks, sparks. Then we hear a splash, a splash, a splash. Three in a row, or is it four?

Ralph takes off running. His strides are long and he doesn’t bobble as his boots crunch down on all manner of detritus as he flies along the shore. He is military after all. I follow, toes curled to keep my slides on.

Judy is wet, but it is Erin in the water. Eddie is in there, too. Ralph seems poised to jump in, but pauses, assessing.

“What the hell?” I yell. I am dizzy from the sparks, the run, the fumes, the worry. I hold my hands out to Erin as if she could reach.

Judy’s jeans are soaked from the knees down, a little higher on the left than the right, the water-weight causing them to droop on her hips. The tips of her blond locks are dripping and she is retreating from the water’s edge. Her eyes are wide and scared, but her mouth is set in a bitter line. “She pushed me,” Judy says. “Into that water.”

“Why is she the one in there, then?” I ask, as Erin’s head dips below the surface. She’s not drowning. She’s diving. Eddie is treading, groping under the surface, trying to get a grip on her. His face is red from the exertion and, it seems, from anger.

“You need me in there, man?” Ralph calls.

Eddie answers by kicking his way back to the water’s edge. “She’s crazy,” he says. “She won’t come out.” He uses his big arms to hoist himself onto dry land.

“Erin,” I scream, my hands balled up at my sides. “Erin, get out of there!”

“She’s crazy,” Eddie repeats. We watch, helpless, as Erin bobs up for breath, goes back under. “Goddamn it, my skin is going to fall off.” Eddie holds out his arms, examining.

Judy approaches, saying, “Let me look.”

“You,” Eddie says. To us, he says, “This one, too. She threw Erin’s ring in the water, is what this all is about.” He makes a terrible hacking sound in this throat, spits, repeats.

I feel bile rising in my own throat listening to him. I ask Judy, “Why would you do that?”

The corners of her mouth turn down. “I didn’t think,” she says. “I just saw her take it off to show Eddie and I grabbed it and threw.”

“When our uncle died,” I say, “the one who we keep talking about, the one who worked here before losing his job, he lived with our grandmother. Her gave her that ring and so she gave it to Erin. In remembrance of him. At the funeral.”

I don’t know why I say this, except that it works: Judy starts to cry. There’s no special story to that ring. There’s no way to explain what Erin is doing out there in the Creek. From here, the oil and the toxins, the heavy metals and the death, turn the water into a perfect mirror for the sky. Each time Erin dives under, it is like she disappears into the clouds. It must be deeper than it seems.

Later, after we’ve sent the boys back to the Coast Guard, after we’ve sent Judy back to Long Island, after Erin has showered, and showered again, and I’ve brushed her long blond hair, after she sleeps it off and a few days pass and we pretend what happened was funny, I go to the library and check out a field guide to birds of the coastal northeast.

I don’t know what Erin’s spark was, if it was in that empty school, or away at college, if it was stoked by the swirling oil swallowing her ring in Newtown Creek; I don’t know what she’s left looking for. But me? I lace up a pair of boots and tell my sister to do the same. We’re going to find that little red bird. 


Nicole Haroutunian is co-editor of Underwater New York. 

 

The Hudson River, The Trains Below by Tobias Carroll

SONG: Trans-Hudson by My Favorite Citizen

BODY OF WATER: Hudson River

Tell me about memory and distance and time. I don’t quite understand how they converge even now, pushing forty. I used to view distance solely in terms of time, used to think any trip that was an hour north was in the same place: visiting cousins in Bergen County, going on trips to museums in the city, venturing off to my dad’s office in North Brunswick. They were all in the neighborhood of an hour from my hometown and, being a child, I never looked at a map, never gleaned where they all were in relation to one another. I thought of everything with a flawed logic, without a sense of space or geometry. That was something I had to learn. It shifted when I went from passenger to driver, changing my relationship to the roads on which I traveled.

Cue up the next course, then; cue up the next track. In this case it was public transportation: at the age of eighteen I moved into a Manhattan dorm and began to familiarize myself with the New York City subway system and its cousin, the PATH train. I’d taken the subway once or twice before, most memorably to save money on parking when friends and I had driven up to see Pink Floyd at Yankee Stadium in the summer of 1994. But the subway took some work, even considering that I was taking it in the most simplistic manner possible: largely, between Greenwich Village and Midtown. Brooklyn was a mystery to me then, a place where I’d travel with carefully remembered directions; Queens and the Bronx and Staten Island were even less on my radar.

I’m pretty sure that the first trip I made on the PATH was to the Newport Centre Mall, along with my oldest friend. I don’t remember what the purpose of the trip was. It might have just been that most archetypal and predictable of decisions made by people who grew up in the Garden State: we missed seeing the inside of a mall. The PATH is similar enough to the subway that it shouldn’t feel all that different, and yet it does. Some of that pertains to the stations, with tiled floors and walls that look more roughly hewed. Some of it is the smell–-not a bad one by any means, but a more industrial one, and one that’s sufficiently different from the subway to be easily recognizable as such. Blindfold someone and place them in the 9th Street PATH station, then lead them one block away to the 8th Street entrance to the station housing the A/C/E and B/D/F/M lines. There’s a noticeable difference there, despite their proximity and similarity of function.

In those days, the train seemed to take ages between the Christopher Street stop and its next destination, either Hoboken or the Pavonia-Newport station, depending on the line for which you’d opted. In college, I made that trip frequently–-sometimes to see movies at the Newport Centre Mall, sometimes to meet up with a friend at the Hoboken stop and drive around the northern part of the state talking about punk bands. The spaces between stops in Manhattan felt fast and regular: 33rd to 23rd to 14th to 9th to Christopher. And then, the wait.

That gap under the Hudson no longer seems as long, and I’m at a loss as to why. Maybe the speed of services has improved in the last twenty years. Maybe I’ve gotten more familiar with the route and it simply seems faster. I’ve kept on taking the PATH from Manhattan to Hoboken. I’ve kept on taking it to Pavonia-Newport, to visit friends or pick up rental cars in the mall’s parking garage. I’ve taken it to Grove Street for bookstores and bars. And in recent years I’ve also become familiar with the World Trade Center’s PATH station, traveling to Harrison repeatedly to watch soccer games and, for a little less than a year, to the Exchange Place station as part of my morning commute.

***

It’s a strange corner of Jersey City. Pavonia-Newport abounds with towering apartment buildings and office spaces. Grove Street and Journal Square feel comfortable and residential: they’re places where people live, shop, and eat. Exchange Place felt disorientingly generic, as though I was walking through a video game’s idea of what a waterfront business district looked like. The PATH train was the last leg of my trip there in the mornings and the first leg of my trip home at night. Sometimes I’d sit and drink a cup of coffee and write at the Starbucks next to the station first. Sometimes I’d be there late and I’d go straight to the station and begin the slow trip home.

After a while the routine got to me. The temporary platform to which the train ran in Manhattan made for a bleak start to the commute back, and the tendency of those waiting on the platform for the New Jersey-bound train to push their way on before those of us who were heading into the city had had a chance to disembark added to the frustration. Atop an already-jittery work situation, this seemed to be one source of stress that I had some ability to work around. So the trip home found some variations; I sought new ways to cross rivers.

I began to take a roundabout way home: a ferry from Jersey City to South Street Seaport, and then a second ferry from there to a stop closer to my neighborhood. A large boat on the East River, and a smaller boat to cross the Hudson. It was a welcome change; it was nice to sit and stand and look out and see the open sky, to watch the blue and the clouds above. The sensation of moving down the river with skylines on either side, the sense of being surrounded by life on all sides. There’s a certain point where the sky starts to seem like something alien, where cloud formations resemble structures and vessels hanging impossibly in the distance. I welcomed it.

It wasn’t an everyday occurrence. And for all that I live near a ferry stop, it isn’t really a service I use regularly. It is hard to argue with the frequency and utility of the city’s train systems. Even so, the drift and the different types of motion are welcome. It’s a reminder of something older and something rapid. It’s a trip out of the tunnel; it’s an elision of time and distance. It’s a crossing of an empty space, or the realization of new ways to move, and a welcome conveyance home. 


Tobias Carroll is the managing editor of Vol.1 Brooklyn. His writing has been published by Bookforum, Men's Journal, Tin House, Hazlitt, and Rolling Stone. He is the author of the collection Transitory and the novel Reel. He's on Twitter at @TobiasCarroll.

Islanders Like Me by Alanna Schubach

SONG: The Downeaster 'Alexa' by Billy Joel 

BODY OF WATER: Atlantic Ocean 

The year I was born, a hurricane made landfall on Long Island that sent gray Atlantic waves gobbling up the sand and slamming against the building where my family lived. We had a third floor apartment that faced the sea, nothing but a strip of beach between us. When I got a little older, my father would take me onto our terrace during storms to see bolts of lightning slice the water, or watch as the ocean slowly swallowed the sun.

As south shore kids, we bragged about our wipe-outs, how strong waves sucked us into themselves and sent us somersaulting until we could only guess which way led back to breathing. Once, a friend collided with another child’s boogie board and emerged onto the sand slicked with blood running from his nose. When his mother saw him, she fled in the other direction. Once our parents spotted a baby, upside down, chubby legs churning in the air after it tipped into one of the buckets of water we dragged up to our piece of beach, where we laid out towels and vinyl chairs, where the adults sat under umbrellas reading or talking nonsense or doling out pieces of fruit, occasionally hauling themselves up to stand at the shore and watch over us. The danger was part of the appeal, as was the discomfort, the sunburn, the sand collecting inside the crotches of bathing suits, the stripes of zinc under our eyes, the heavy sensation in our lungs when we took deep breaths after swimming for hours. During the day, our beach was populated with gentle characters: the sand sculptor who with his hands shaped huge turtles, the bagpiper bleating at all hours, the martial artist up at dawn doing tai chi by the jetty. But at night, the boardwalk became dotted with shambling figures that required a wide berth; they were left over from the deinstitutionalization of the 1970s, when city mental institutions discharged their patients to ancient motels lining the Long Beach sand.

When I was seven, we moved a few miles inland, to a town that was wealthier and whiter. And greener: here was your classic suburb of split-levels, sycamores, and well-groomed lawns. My brother and I were forbidden from watching television when the sun was out, so we pulled the neighbor kids from their air conditioning and onto the streets, which we crosshatched with chalk drawings. My parents started calling our house Camp Schubach, and we quickly forgot that it ever hadn’t been ours.

But something must have remained off-kilter. Once, while riding bikes down one of the smooth avenues of our neighborhood, a friend shared with me her prophecy: “You’re going to leave and I’m going to stay here, and every now and then you’ll come back and visit and tell me about where you went.” And the idea, Stay here, suddenly struck me as impossible; it provoked a disgust I couldn’t explain.

*

Last summer some friends and I drove out from Queens to the island to spend a weekend at the beach. Before we headed back to the city, we stopped at a diner. It was packed for Sunday breakfast, and as we waited to be seated, carful after carful of Long Islanders piled in behind us, surveyed the crowds, and proclaimed to whomever would listen, “I’m not fucking waiting.”

The situation, we learned over and over again, was bullshit, this place was poorly run, if a table didn’t open right away they were leaving. The pitch of their anger seemed at odds with the well-lit, bustling circumstances of the little diner, almost to the point of the surreal. But in fact it was familiar, the impatience and the aggravation, the suspicion that, absent constant vigilance, you will get fucked. Many Long Islanders do not have deep roots in this country; growing up, most everyone’s grandparents, including my own, had foreign accents. Perhaps it’s how they had to fight for their little pockets of affluence after who knows what kind of nightmare stops along the way, a fight passed down the generations but now missing a reasonable target. The hostility was like a gene activated at the onset of puberty; I remember wondering a few days into middle school, the kind of place where reading Lord of the Flies would have been redundant, is this what it’s going to be like? Where were the friendly beach clans, the children whose brutishness ended at carving up jellyfish with plastic sand shovels? So I found a new clan—the Goths—and made it my business to loathe Long Island, to make my outsider orientation clear to everyone.

Long Island can be shockingly provincial, its proximity to one of the world’s greatest cultural centers seemingly not a factor at all; it’s among the most racially segregated areas in the country, and in 2014 the state had to order school districts to enroll undocumented immigrant children, after they claimed to have no room for them. My brother’s peewee baseball coach once told the players to run like a pack of people were chasing them, using a slur to describe said people that is not appropriate for children or for anyone, and when I had my Bat Mitzvah, another girl told me that her mother disapproved of the whole proceeding because the invitation cards had been “too casual.” Often, people’s approval and disapproval seemed misplaced; what stoked their outrage had little to do, I thought and continue to think, with what was actually wrong.

We Goths felt that we alone knew this. We were imbued with the righteous authority to identify poseurs, followers, and Jewish American Princesses, to forge our own paths. What you feel you discover as an adolescent about your culture, its pettiness and justifications, its encouragement of the forfeiture of dreams and values, is not actually wrong; you just gradually become acclimated until you fall victim yourself, like being sucked under a wave, only very, very slowly.

My affection for Long Island has not exactly grown. I jettisoned my accent in college because students from the New York suburbs were widely known to be brash, entitled, and oblivious, about as appealing as an eight a.m. class. But it’s started to come back. I’ve found it makes me sound tough, if only to myself, when I want to seem like I’m not nervous or self-conscious. That edge of hostility, unfounded though it may be, imbues us with power. Holding onto misplaced rage is a form of self-harm, like holding a hot coal in your hand, but we can always throw that coal at someone else.

Maybe what we’re all angry about is being from Long Island. But none of us control where we come from; place of origin is as arbitrary as it is formative. Which may be why it’s so appealing to overlay our homelands with an ambitious sweep—which in turn explains Billy Joel.

The homegrown troubadour unites nearly all Long Islanders, be they Goth or poseur—though of course even he sings mostly about the city. “The Downeaster ‘Alexa’,” though, evokes a dream-Long Island, gritty, romantic, and sea-swept; it’s the ballad of a down-on-his-luck fisherman from a vanishing community, struggling to make a living off the same waters that hemmed us all in, left us vulnerable, formed an incubator for the kind of insular, territorial island culture that has at some points in history bred cannibalism. In the music video, a solemn-faced Joel plays an accordion on a crumbling dock and then underneath a boardwalk, intercut with images of bearded men shaking out damp fishing nets on ship decks. The song is so epic that it includes a violin solo by Itzhak Perlman. Its seriousness can be a little tough to take.       

But his brazen earnestness must be what people love about Billy Joel, why he is playing thirty consecutive shows at MSG this year. Long Islanders, too, often carry with them a touching streak of sincerity; my friend from Islip does an impression of a “classic Long Islander,” which is a middle-aged tough guy wandering nervously around a drugstore, looking for the tampon aisle because his girlfriend sent him out to get some.

“The Downeaster ‘Alexa’” concludes with a nod to Long Island’s social divisions: “There ain't no island left for islanders like me,” Joel sings. The track is at its heart a folk ballad about a vanishing nautical community, but hearing Billy Joel intone the phrase “islanders like me” almost feels like tacit permission to be just a little proud of coming from Long Island. And you can’t sing about it without singing about the water; the whole region’s saving grace may be its vulnerability to the natural world, which periodically makes sure to remind us that the apartment towers, the motels, the baseball fields and shopping malls and wedding venues, can be taken by the waves, the pettiness and provincialism is nothing against the mouth of the ocean, which can swallow it all as easy as it swallowed the sun every night when I watched from the terrace. 


Alanna Schubach is a teacher and freelance journalist living in Queens. Her fiction has previously appeared in Newtown Literary, Post Road, Prick of the Spindle, the Bellevue Literary Review, and more. She was named a 2015 Fellow in Fiction with the New York Foundation for the Arts.

 

Exodus of Dead Horse Bay by Julie Lunde

OBJECT: Horse Bones, Hebrew Newspaper Fossil

BODY OF WATER: Dead Horse Bay

 

So it was written: the deeps covered them; they went down into the depths like a stone.

It goes like this. One person was chasing another. The sea split. There was a door. There was a crossing.
From one side to the other. Then the door slammed. It slammed in the face of the chaser.  He was hit.
He was sunk. He went down.

We were still running and we did not look back. Never look back. It slows you down. Distraction.
Face forwards. Run faster. It went like this. The sea unsplit. The stones went down. The deeps covered
them. They sank down to the bottom, trapped there like a hard word stuck in a tight throat.

So it is said. Memories of it washed up jagged on the shore. Like cracked glass, the edges healed.
Things tend towards smoothness. Things end. 


Julie Lunde is a recent graduate of the Northwestern University creative writing program. In June 2015, she was named the recipient of the Arch Street Prize for her essay "The Plural of Fish." Her poetry and prose have also been published in The Allegheny Review, 3Elements Review, and Prompt Magazine. She was also the founder of the Northwestern Jewish Writers’ Workshop. She is currently living in Manhattan and working on her first book.

Horse Seance by Meredith Drum

For all the ghost horses haunting Dead Horse Bay, this was made for an Underwater New York event as part of Marie Lorenz's Flow Pool at Recess Art in SoHo, April 21, 2016.

OBJECT: Horse Bones

BODY OF WATER: Dead Horse Bay

Follow the link to see images of Horse Seance floating in the Flow Pool. 


 

 

Meredith Drum’s most recent project is the Fish Stories Community Cookbook: a collection of seafood recipes, local histories, stories, drawings and ecological information contributed by people who live and work in the Lower East Side of New York City. The book was compiled and produced by the Oyster City Project (Rachel Stevens and Meredith Drum) for Paths to Pier 42 and distributed at the Paths to Pier 42 Fall 2015 Celebration in East River Park.

 

Jaula Dorada 1 (Golden Cage 1) by Alexis Neider

Alexis Neider created this artwork for an event in collaboration with Marie Lorenz's Flow Pool at Recess. See pictures and read more about it here.

OBJECT: Birdcage

BODY OF WATER: Gowanus Canal

Photographs by Nate Dorr


I've been working on the idea of borders-spaces of entry and rejection. After reading an article in El Diario that called the US, "la jaula dorada," or "the golden cage" in which migrants can enter but cannot leave, I created my own golden birdcage. I hope it floats! 


Alexis Neider is a painter and print-maker.  Her work uses domestic forms to address patterns of entry and barriers to entry over time.  Alexis has exhibited widely across NYC including at Local Project, A.I.R. Gallery, Clemente Soto Velez Center, Centotto Galleria, Steuben Gallery, Pratt Institute, Cuchifritos Gallery, Brian Morris Gallery, and Spacewomb.  She has exhibited internationally in Budapest at Villa Barabás Galeria and in Spain at Can Serrat.   She has attended residencies at Can Serrat, A.I.R. Budapest, Fowler Dune Shack Residency, and Catwalk Artist residency.  She lives in and creates work in Brooklyn, NY.

Untitled Double Marker by Nicole Antebi

Nicole Antebi adapted this artwork for an event in collaboration with Marie Lorenz's Flow Pool at Recess. See pictures and read more about it here.

OBJECT: River Water

BODY OF WATER: Rio Bravo / Rio Grande

Photographs and images by Nicole Antebi and Nate Dorr 


Following the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the river (referred to as Rio Bravo to the South and Rio Grande to the North) would divide two cities that once held the same name. Double Boundary Marker is a small hand prop fabricated in unfired clay and bound by a base containing a level filled with water gleaned from the river with two names. Ideally this double marker will dissolve once submerged in the flow pool.


Nicole Antebi works in non-fiction animation, motion graphics, installation while simultaneously connecting and creating opportunities for other artists through larger curatorial and editorial projects such as Water, CA and Winter Shack. Her work has been shown in several continents and in alternative spaces such as Hive House Los Angeles, High Desert Test Sites, The Manhattan Bridge Anchorage, Teeny Cine’s converted trailer, Portable Forest, a Texas Grain Silo and in the cabin of a capsized ship at Machine Project in Los Angeles. She was the 2015 animator-in-residence at Circuit Bridges, New York and was recently awarded a Jerome Foundation Grant in Film/Video for a forthcoming animated film about El Paso and Ciudad Juàrez in the early 90’s.

Flying Fish Kite by Mark Joshua Epstein

Mark Joshua Epstein created this artwork for an event in collaboration with Marie Lorenz's Flow Pool at Recess. See pictures and read more about it here.

OBJECT: Flying Fish Kite

BODY OF WATER: Coney Island Creek

Photographs by Nate Dorr and Mark Joshua Epstein 


Air. Structure. Pattern.


Mark Joshua Epstein received his BFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and his MFA from the Slade School of Fine Art. Epstein has had solo shows at Biquini Wax (Mexico City), Brian Morris Gallery (New York, NY), Feral (Mexico City), Illinois State University (Normal, IL) and Vane Gallery (Newcastle, UK). Epstein recently discussed his practice on www.paintingisdead.com and some recent works can be seen in the April issue of L'Officiel Mexico. Even more of his work can be seen at www.markjoshuaepstein.com

Sacrificial Objects by Sleepy Peopl

Sleepy Peopl created this artwork for an event in collaboration with Marie Lorenz's Flow Pool at Recess. See pictures and read more about it here.

OBJECT: Sacrificial Objects

BODY OF WATER: Bronx River

Photographs by Nate Dorr and Dan Selzer


Sleepy Peopl are Maya Edelman and Nate Dorr. While their daytime callings are "animator" and "photographer" respectively, by night they like to break out of the minutia of applied arts and roam the beaches of New York City in search of sacred objects. The proves difficult as the sacrificial animals and offerings of fruit and flowers are made of paper and disintegrate on contact with water. They have managed to rescue a few rare specimens--they don't know their application or meaning, and are forced to seek guidance from botanica proprietors and old New York City newspaper headlines.

Ghost Horse, 2016 by Emily A. Gibson

Emily A. Gibson created this artwork for an event in collaboration with Marie Lorenz's Flow Pool at Recess. See pictures and read more about it here.

OBJECT: Horse Bones

BODY OF WATER: Dead Horse Bay

Photographs by Nate Dorr, Dan Selzer and Emily Gibson


I make portraits of phantoms to explore the connections between history, memory, and perception. My choice of materials is often intended to draw attention to the unstable nature of these entities.  The unwieldy form of the ghost horse is made out of adhesive and other transparent material. It references the horse refineries that were once prevalent in Dead Horse Bay.  The creatures inevitable transformation as it is submerged in water and mingled with other objects is similar to the unpredictable ways we recall the past.  Some aspects coalesce while others disappear altogether.


Emily A. Gibson has exhibited her work in New York, Boston, and Provincetown, and has received grants from the Berkshire Taconic Foundation, and the Leopold Schepp Foundation. Gibson holds a Bachelor's of Fine Arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore and a Master's in Fine Arts from the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston. As a graduate student, she received a scholarship to travel and to study art in Shanghai, Beijing, Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto.

From Islands by Kelly Sullivan

Kelly Sullivan wrote this poem for an event in collaboration with Marie Lorenz's Flow Pool at Recess. See pictures and read more about it here.

OBJECT: Currents and Tides

BODY OF WATER: All Over

 

At low tide on Easter Sunday we walk the donkeys
across an chois, the step, to Straw Island, the one time of the year
when new moon and sun converge to make the aquatic
almost terrestrial. The donkeys graze for three months
on marram grass and vetch, birth their foals, drink rain water left
in angled rocks except some years someone forgets
we’ve left them there and drought or storms or geography
constrict so they are half-starved, parched, and try their best
to swim. In 1974 we found their skeletons scattered across
the ground, dry as desert. An chois — the step — because
to step across from Inishmore to the island of straw rests in principle
on the fact that bodies in gravitational pull grow stronger
the closer they come together. And Easter an ancient celebration
of the rising year, when we shift our balance back to day.
Just a step between coming together or falling away.


This poem derives in large part from a beautiful passage in Tim Robinson’s Stones of Aran Pilgrimage in which he explains the gravitational forces underlying tidal movement, and the practice of taking donkeys out to graze on Straw Island off Inishmore, accessible by sandbar only at the lowest tide of the year. --Kelly Sullivan


Kelly Sullivan’s poetry and short fiction has appeared in Salmagundi, Poetry Ireland Review, Southword, and elsewhere. She published a novel, Winter Bayou, in Ireland in 2005. She teaches Irish literature at NYU’s Glucksman Ireland House. kellyesullivan.com

Resurfaces by Kelly Sullivan

Kelly Sullivan wrote this poem for an event in collaboration with Marie Lorenz's Flow Pool at Recess. See pictures and read more about it here.

OBJECT: Dead Bodies

BODY OF WATER: All Over

 

1989

That time at ten when the sunglasses, for which
you felt such pride, slide down your nose and hit
the slow movement of water in the bay, splash, twist,
descend. The way your father watched
and as he held your hand, he said oh no! in mock chagrin
so that — sunlit flash — you remember the day in the aquarium

when a man grabbed your hand and dragged
you across the darkened rooms, the starfish swirling
in kaleidoscopic knots and his hand wrenching
your shoulder as you resisted. You whimpered, yelled,
but nothing sounded in those underwater halls
as if you too were aquatic, mute as a fish, blowing your gills

open and closed, open and closed as schools of humans
parted the way. It was the man who stopped dead like vertigo,
dropped your hand and stood mouthing oh no oh no
I’m sorry, I thought you were mine
. Unrecognizable person
so unlike you, claiming to disclaim, mute mouth aghast,
his face distorted through the light-refracting water and glass. 

2015

Manatees, sea cows made light in the saltwater,
swim up the springs, the temperature always 70 degrees
summer or winter. To cool us in mid-July we enter
as the noon sun slips through moss-covered trees.
She holds the baby aloft. Her husband laughs, snaps photographs,
updates status, Instagram. But from here I wonder at their happiness,  

what comes if it is just display? At the state park we lowered carefully
into the tank. The sea cows swarmed against the glass designed
to give a view of feeding. Now we’re the one’s consigned
to enclosure, their bodies as landscape divided our periphery.
In afternoon humidity above a storm erupted with damning
force. Under the water’s boiling skin the manatees placidly swim. 

And sheltering in that submarine glass it resurfaces: it was your own father him
who put his hand in that girl’s hand and didn’t look and dragged
her through the galleries, brazen serpent, belligerent thug,
child-stealer, unable to recognize his own kin
by touch or scent, and after stood chagrined and apologized to her,
the girl, and not to you, alone, underwater, the unclaimed daughter.


I had intended to write a poem about all of the bodies that end up in the New York City waterways. I was thinking about the strange case of a man named White who murdered his roommate, named Black, in a homeless shelter in the Bronx. For a few days helicopters trolled the Hudson. Then I read that they had found White’s body, apparently the victim of suicide. But this exploration of drowned bodies turned into a litany of the things we submerge and that later emerge again, sometimes in a different form. --Kelly Sullivan


Kelly Sullivan’s poetry and short fiction has appeared in Salmagundi, Poetry Ireland Review, Southword, and elsewhere. She published a novel, Winter Bayou, in Ireland in 2005. She teaches Irish literature at NYU’s Glucksman Ireland House. kellyesullivan.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Islands

 

At low tide on Easter Sunday we walk the donkeys

across an chois, the step, to Straw Island, the one time of the year

when new moon and sun converge to make the aquatic

almost terrestrial. The donkeys graze for three months

on marram grass and vetch, birth their foals, drink rain water left

in angled rocks except some years someone forgets

we’ve left them there and drought or storms or geography

constrict so they are half-starved, parched, and try their best

to swim. In 1974 we found their skeletons scattered across

the ground, dry as desert. An chois — the step — because

to step across from Inishmore to the island of straw rests in principle

on the fact that bodies in gravitational pull grow stronger

the closer they come together. And Easter an ancient celebration

of the rising year, when we shift our balance back to day.

Just a step between coming together or falling away.

 

 

This poem derives in large part from a beautiful passage in Tim Robinson’s Stones of Aran Pilgrimage in which he explains the gravitational forces underlying tidal movement, and the practice of taking donkeys out to graze on Straw Island off Inishmore, accessible by sandbar only at the lowest tide of the year. 

Wonder by Robert Brown

BODY OF WATER: Atlantic Ocean 

You dive off the boat tank first.
The flippered feet lie flat then flip
a half circle, like a rush hour fuel gauge
falling from Full to Empty. The fall

should stop on the ocean surface,
but this once I carried too many weights,
and I crashed through 70 feet of sea
water at nine and a half knots,

kicking my fins against the fall,
backwards into my own garden of

seaweed swinging like party streamers,
connecting finally to the the ocean floor.
I nearly stepped on, but did not see,
two crabs pinching claws at one another,

their spidery legs stirring silt, engraving
a cyrillic calligraphy into the dense sand–
an ordinary wonder like an inch-thick
wetsuit and how it compresses at depth,

squeezing me from boot to hood,
or my aluminum air tank, manmade

from melted metal, and how it sinks
softly into my shoulders. I took a deep
breath—of air, 70 feet south of the ocean
surface—I saw and ignored a 7-legged

starfish, and I flipped the release latch
on my weight belt so that it fell to the floor
and I fell upward. I fought against my fall,
again, my ascension this time, trying to slow

down as the water turned from grey to jade,
and my sinuses and ears popped.

The air in my lungs expanded from a deep breath
taken under great pressure so I could breathe out

while my lungs filled up, a banal miracle—like air
travel, printing presses, syringes, cellular

phones: baskets for unending loaves and fishes—
I'm always too mixed up to appreciate.

 


Robert grew up with a hundred-dozen-an-hour donut machine in his basement and has lived in some of the great donut cities in America*, so it's no small thing that his favorite part about coming to NYC, besides the esoterica dredged from the waterways, is the preponderance of great donut shops.

*Los Angeles, Seattle, and Washington DC

Yoga on the Sound with Karen by Vincent DiGirolamo

A note from the writer: This one came out of a workshop with Lisa Jarnot, who astutely noted that it has the same rhyme and meter as Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner."  A happy accident.


BODY OF WATER: Port Jefferson Harbor

 

A rainbow of mats on weathered gray slats

         at the end of a jutting pier.

Salt air incense, lapping-water chimes,

         the harbor our studio mirror.

Like sandpipers we stand, one-leg tucked,

         eyes fixed on bobbing white hulls.

Bellies now bend toward a ceiling of cloud,

         odd creatures to high wheeling gulls.

An Azure Blue flutters into view,

         drawn by our Ujjayi breath.

Then Monkey mind leaps to the wharf of my youth

         three thousand miles west.

 

I see papa, forearms thick,

         mending a cork-lined net.

High-booted uncles winch fish by the ton

         and scrub down the slippery deck.

They smoke Lucky Strike, tend bar at night,

         drink Canadian Club on ice.

For exercise they specialize

         in pinochle, bocce, and dice.

I hear them cry, “Vincenzo, che fai?”*

         in steerage voices strong.

What can I say except “Namaste”

         and bow to the ferry’s “Ommm….”

*What are you doing?

 


Vincent DiGirolamo teaches American history at Baruch College. His works include the documentary Monterey’s Boat People, the novel Whispers Under the Wharf, and Crying the News: A History of America’s Newsboys, forthcoming from Oxford University Press. His poems have appeared in The Haven: New Poetry and the Monterey Herald. He lives in East Setauket, New York.    

Sea Elegy by Bobby Gagnon

OBJECT: dead giraffe

BODY OF WATER: New York Harbor

Music Credits:

Mark Brotter - Drums

Charlie Torres - Bass

Charlie Giordano - Keyboards

Martin Bisi - Door Hinge

Bobby Gagnon - Guitars

Engineered by Martin Bisi - BC Studios, Brooklyn, NY

Image Credit: Giraffe courtesy of John R. Hutchinson. Used by Permission.

Particulates by Katy Lederer

These poems were written for a collaboration with the A.I.R. Gallery. Katy Lederer was inspired by artist Maxine Henryson's photography project, "Hudson Everyday," which you can see here.

 

 

The top-
ic under-

taken.
Train,

ident-
ify de-

ficiency. The de-
ification in pre-

viously.
Source

of the long
spectral line's

ab-
sorption.

 

*

 

Glow was first
re-

ported.
Band

of sunrise
and the fal-

sest dawn.
De-

scribe to me the dif-
ference in

the struc-
ture of

the truest
dawn.

 

*

 

Light of
false dawn as

the first.
Vital in

Antarctica.
Small

in its ref-
lecting power. Am-

ounts.
Because it part-

icles—the ice is as
a fam-

ily in
phase.

 

*

 

Broad-
ening of

knell.
Indi-

vidual
part-

icles. Broad-
ening ef-

fect. Part-
icle shift. This

ef-
fect the col-

losion of character-
istics.

 

*

 

They are
dif-

ferent from
pro-

min-
ences. They are

phe-
nom-

enon. Under-
lay

the fib-
rils in the interwork

gi-
gantic lakes.

 

*

 

The source as ongoing
condit-

ion, and we re-
emit that atom

roll. Un-
usually changing elect-

ron, quantum
system in a sun-

lit grove. Atomic lines re-
spective with

their mittens in the hydro-
gen. And not a single fre-

quency for
us.

 

*

 

Huge field of
fi-

ery
gas. Fine-

ly in
the fil-

ments. Spic-
ules in

space. Time as
fing-

ered flow-
ing

gas.
The race.

 

*

 

Rather than
simply

up-
on. Macro

self-
ab-

sorption. Ent-
ering large

region.
Process is as

self-
ab-

sorption: spread
of wings.

 

*

 

Bright-
er

cells, phys-
ical

gran
-ules. They look

sim-
ilar. They look

iscil-
lation. And

in pre-
sence of

con-
vection.

 

*

 

Funda-
mental as a

fern. A sin-
gle ten-

sor as
a Lorentz

force. In quant-
inized mag-

netic
force. In-

vis-
ible forc-

es. A cir-
ular mass.

 

*

 

Impact pressure broad-
en-

ing. Like a
mount-

ain. In vel-
ocity.

Emission e-
ffect and an energy

massing. This e-
effect result, ex-

tended shift
en-

hanced and then sup-
ressed.

 

*

 

The source of
astro-

orbit-
al in light-

ening and in gegen-
chein. In

show-
ers, and in

temp-
ests, we

out-
gassed be-

fore the com-
ets burst.

 

*

 

Exo-endo-
zodiac. Hor- 

izon, as an
undersun
.

Moon
at the observatory. Where

and when? Had
always been
.

A piece of bro-
ken

pot-
tery, disc-

arded as
the moon.

 

*

 

Ax-
is of a-

symmetry.
In-

visible
force re-

pels. In its
im-

portant navi-
gation, in re- 

sentment
ele- 

mentary compart-
ments.

 

*

 

In horizontal light they
pointed out the hot

particu-
late.

Exo-
light in

wheel-
ing well and micro-meter

harvest-
ing. Our

micro-
finger-

prints in
dust.

 

*

 

Dor-
mant

twenty
years,

ap-
roaching sacrifice

and meteors. Pro-
ducing

glacial light
in the

la-
guna.

Thus we might
maintain.

 

*

 

Shape and field
de-

scription.
Mag-

netism and phys-
ical force-

s in re-
lation-

ship. Fields
to pre-

fer higher-
er yields, now

what have we come
to.


Katy Lederer is the author of the poetry collections Winter Sex (Verse) and The Heaven-Sent Leaf (BOA Editions), as well as the memoir Poker Face: A Girlhood Among Gamblers (Crown), which was a New York Times Book Review "Editor's Choice" and one of Esquire's eight "Best Books of the Year."

Her poetry, essays, and reviews have been published in a diverse array of magazines including Mike and Dale's Younger PoetsThe Paris ReviewThe EnemyThe American Poetry Review, and Poetry London. Recently, she has been writing forThe New Yorker online about economics and climate change.

In her writing, work, and activism, Lederer focuses on the intersection between feeling and analysis, passion and data, and excess and traditional form. For several years, she worked at a quantitative hedge fund in midtown Manhattan. She has also worked as a teacher, anthropological researcher, assistant to the late psychoanalyst Dr. Arnold Cooper, and semi-professional poker player.

Currently, Lederer is at work on a collection of essays around apocalyptic themes, a collection of poetry titled The Engineers on the topics of genetics, autoimmunity, deformity, and motherhood, and a book-length science fictional sonnet sequence titled Polar Bodies: Prayers for Humans and the Earth, which she is hoping will accommodate these new collaborative poems.


Water Isn't Free and Neither Are You by Morgan Parker

This poem was written for a collaboration with the A.I.R. Gallery. Morgan Parker was inspired by artist Erica Stoller's installation, "Floating," which you can see here


When our aunt died
last week, my brother
called to tell me I
would die too. The deep end
is relative, is the first thing
they teach us. River means
nigger. Nigger
means hollow.
Censor means savior.
Curve means come.
Nothing on the Internet
is safe. Everything is
Something, even this
piece of paper.
I never learned to swim
but I went swimming.
once I paid four dollars
for a Perrier. I want the ocean
without danger or cost.
I want to be a name you can
forget. In my life I get
the chills for no reason.
I learn the words
to the new Rihanna prayer.
I arrange myself where
people live. There are rules
for poolsides and empty cups.
Everything means Be Careful.
I roll around in loss, ready for war.
When something dies, I buy a new one.
When I get bored, I close the window.


Morgan Parker is the author of Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up At Night (Switchback Books 2015), selected by Eileen Myles for the 2013 Gatewood Prize. Morgan is Cave Canem graduate fellow, winner of a 2016 Pushcart Prize, and poetry editor for The Offing. She also co-curates the Poets With Attitude (PWA) reading series with Tommy Pico, and with Angel Nafis, she is The Other Black Girl Collective. 

 

(Untitled) by Lauren Creight Clark

OBJECT: Human Skull

BODY OF WATER: Bronx River

What will we call these bones?
We will call them ours.

We packed tight this useless mother tongue
and hurled it into space.
How far could we get?

And back, now, reel it in.
Just water rotting on the vine:

a broken fish, its language teeth,
snake-faced from the swim,

a pool of our collective
brackish thinking
waving.

Is that my mouth
is it a long-bodied word
sword-headed
blue like an infant
did I say it?

Only with the sun
do the bones take on
their terrifying white. 


Lauren Creight Clark is a poet and historian from New Orleans, Louisiana. She currently lives in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Floating by Erica Stoller

This artwork was a part of the AIR Gallery summer exhibition, "If These Walls..." on Governor's Island. AIR Gallery and UNY initiated a collaboration where three writers created poems based on a water-inspired work from the exhibition. Poet Morgan Parker worked from Erica Stoller's "Floating"--you can read her poem here


Artist's Statement 

My recent wall sculpture is made of unexpected materials that are not from art stores but rather from places that sell building materials, hardware, office supplies and even toys. I have been working with construction fencing, PVC pipes, foam insulation, hula hoops, swimming noodles, and more, using (and reusing) these light and colorful elements to form hanging sculptures that makes one look twice. Don't I know that stuff? Haven't I see it before?

Eventually, the wall in my studio was so full of holes that I couldn't keep nailing into the sheetrock to hang and to photograph my new pieces. I spackled and painted the wall, then not wanting to spoil the surface,  nailed a horizontal strip of wood the whole length of the main wall, about 80 inches above floor.  Recent work hangs from pins and nails at that level. It's the dividing line, nothing above and everything below.

As AIR began to discuss Underwater New York and to think about the harbor, things on strings seemed to resemble fishing apparatus with mysterious catches or perhaps buoyant moving objects below the surface. I noticed the blue tubey stuff at Home Depot at about the same time...not that the real harbor is swimming pool blue, but on a good day, the surface of the water reflects the sky. And below the waterline, anything goes.


Erica Stoller has always been interested in bands of color....either painted on canvas, drawn on paper, and now with sculpture made of unexpected materials that  include plumbing conduit, pipe insulation, hula hoops,  and even ping pong balls.. In this new work, the shapes and the colors are the same element, recognizable for what they were meant to be and, in reconfiguration, for what they've become.

Stoller studied painting at Bennington, worked briefly in the Primitive Art Department at the Brooklyn Museum, and is the Director of Esto, the architectural photography agency.

 


Hudson Everyday by Maxine Henryson

This group of photographs was a part of the AIR Gallery summer exhibition, "If These Walls..." on Governor's Island. AIR Gallery and UNY initiated a collaboration where three writers created poems based on a water-inspired work from the exhibition. Poet Katy Lederer worked from Maxine Henryson's "Hudson Everyday"--you can read her poems here



Artist's Statement

The photographs in the series Everyday were taken from the train windows during my weekly commutes from New York City to Vermont. (1997-2006)

1.
Mountain, Everyday, 1999
Ektacolor print
20 x 24.25 inches
Edition 1 of 6

2. 
Lower Hudson River, Everyday, 2000
Ektacolor print
20 x 24.25 inches
Edition 1 of 6

3. 
Winter, Everyday, 1999
Ektacolor print
20 x 24.25 inches
Edition 1 of 6

4.
Castle, Everyday, 1999
Ektacolor print
20 x 24.25 inches
Edition 1 of 6

5.
Autumn, Everyday
Ektacolor print
20 x 24.25 inches
Edition 1 of 6

6. 
River, Everyday, 1999
Ektacolor print
20 x 24.25 inches
Edition 1 of 6

7. 
Treetops, Everyday, 1999
Ektacolor print
20 x 24.25 inches
Edition 1 of 6

8. 
Reflecting, Everyday, 2001
Ektacolor, print
20 x 24.25 inches
Edition 1 of 6

9.
Spring Again, Everyday, 1999
Ektacolor print
20 x 24.25 inches
Edition 1 of 6

10.
Still Light, Everyday, 2002
Ektacolor print
20 x 24.25 inches
Edition 1 of 6

 

 


Maxine Henryson is an artist and bookmaker who creates sensual, poetic photographs of the seemingly everyday. Born in Jackson, Mississippi, she lives and works in New York. She studied sociology at Simmons College, Boston (Bachelor of Science), and the University of London (Master of Philosophy) and has a Master of Arts in Teaching degree in studio arts from the University of Chicago and a Master of Fine Arts degree in photography from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her photographs have been widely exhibited in the United States and Europe and are in numerous public and private international collections, including the former Celanese Photography Collection, Frankfurt; the Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg; and the Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, Florida.