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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.

The Waterpod and Other Photographs by Mary Mattingly

OBJECT: Stripped Cars, Waterpod

BODY OF WATER: East River, All Over


Mary Mattingly is a photographer and sculptor based in New York. Mary just completed “Waterpod," a floating sculptural eco-habitat in the New York Waterways, where she lived this summer. In 2009, she exhibited her work at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, the Tucson Museum of Art, and “Nomadographies” at Robert Mann Gallery, in 2008, she exhibited “Fore Cast”, a multimedia opera at White Box in Manhattan, in 2007: “Frontier” with Galerie Adler in Germany, and “Time Has Fallen Asleep” at the New York Public Library. In 2006 her photo work headlined “Ecotopia , the triennial at the International Center of Photography. She exhibits at Robert Mann Gallery in New York, and studied at Pacific Northwest College of Art, Parsons School of Design, and Yale School of Art. She has taught at the International Center of Photography, and co-curated several water-based exhibitions, alongside the Miami Basel art fair, the Venice Biennale and the Instanbul Biennale. She recently completed a residency at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and at New York University.