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.

Undulation by Elizabeth Velazquez

This work was created during the WoW/UNY Governors Island Residency. Elizabeth Velazquez was in residence on Governors Island from July 9-August 5, 2018.

Dimensions: 180 x 30 inches
Materials: Vellum, graphite, plastic, fabric, mica, shell, chalk, and acrylic

Artist Statement: The project Bodies, Water & Spirit Realm centers water—its beauty, sacredness, and the injustice held by the bodies of water around New York City. There was devastating loss of human and ecological life in the waters as settler colonialism began, including the waters surrounding the area of Pagganuck (Governors Island). Remembering those lives reverently and contemplating how these bodies of water connect with a historical past are essential to Bodies, Water & Spirit Realm.

Many stories can be told of the past from the way that events and people are memorialized or not memorialized. The placards located on Governors Island are examples of how stories of native presence remain under-recognized and dishonored. The piece titled Undulation includes rubbings from the only placard on Governors Island that references the Lenape.

Elizabeth Velazquez creates mixed media/sculptural works, installation and rituals. She currently lives in Queens, NY. Her process centers on destruction and reconstruction, and connecting with a desire to transform physical, psychological, and social injustices. Elizabeth is a founding member of SEQAA (Southeast Queens Artist Alliance) and is also a core member of NYCORE (New York Collective of Radical Educators). In 2018, she participated in the SEQ Biennial through which she received a commission for new work from No Longer Empty Curatorial Lab. Ms. Velazquez earned a mini-grant from the 2018 Reimagine End of Life festival for the completion of a ritual at Washington Square Park, NY. During the summer of 2018, she created new work at a residency with WoW(Works on Water) /Underwater New York at Governors Island. Elizabeth currently holds a residency at Cigar Factory located in LIC, Queens, and is a recipient of the 2019 apexart International Fellowship.

Aquapolis 2100 by /rive collective

This work was created during the WoW/UNY Governors Island Residency. /rive collective was in residence on Governors Island in 2018.

Aquapolis 2100  [6 minutes, HD video]
/rive Collective [ Laura Chipley, Samara Smith, A.E. Souzis]

Aquapolis 2100 is a collaborative project by the art collective /rive exploring New York City's rising sea levels, which could rise up to as much as 6 feet higher by 2100. Each weekend of the WoW/UNY residency in summer 2018, /rive invited Governors Island visitors to draw what they imagine New York might look like in 2100 and sketch up their ideas—both practical and fantastical—about what they could do to deal with this crisis. This video piece features animations of these drawings set in the backdrop of an increasingly watery New York.

/rive is a Brooklyn-based artist collective focused on site-specific, locative projects that meet at the intersection of psychogeography, locative media and documentary narrative. Most projects are set in, and explore, urban public spaces. Inspired by social practice, /rive embraces collaborative and participatory methodologies, blurring the boundaries between maker, subject and audience. Members Laura Grace Chipley, Samara Smith and A.E. Souzis have exhibited at the Queens Museum, Hammer Museum, Bronx Museum, New York Hall of Science, Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art, Art in Odd Places and beyond.

Misdirected Flow by Edmund Mooney

This work was created during the WoW/UNY Governors Island Residency. Edmund Mooney was in residence on Governors Island from July 9-22, 2018.

Duration: 9 minutes
Materials: Video

Artist Statement: Misdirected Flow is a meditation on the industrialization of a natural resource and the effects of its environmental degradation, rippling out into the surrounding community, upsetting the natural order and causing or inspiring a multitude of injuries and deaths. The Gowanus Creek was a salt marsh of great renown that the Canarsee tribe fished, hunted, and lived on. The Dutch settled there because it reminded them of their native land and they immediately set about taming the waters for their own benefit. The oysters and clams and fish and game pulled from its waters were known the world over as exceptional. Soon after the canalization was completed in the 1840s, people and animals started dying there. Converting the tidal creek into a canal fundamentally changed contact with the water, from the gently sloping banks formed in the last ice age to an abrupt edge dropping off to a a uniform depth well over 10 feet. The resulting cognitive dissonance was deadly: people who couldn’t swim (most everyone in those days) would enter the canal where they used to go wading, only to find that they couldn’t get out.  

We don’t look at the Gowanus and think of a rainforest, but it once teemed with nearly as much biodiversity. Salt marshes are the 2nd most productive and bio-diverse biomes on earth, behind only the rainforest. When the tidal creek was  converted to a canal, it was done on the cheap. Self-cleaning measures were foregone, and the canal became a viaduct for combined sewer and storm drain outflows, a cost-saving shortcut for sewage, rather than taking it all the way to the bay. The canal was designed to become incredibly polluted very quickly and it did just that.  

The canalification of this tidal salt marsh began with the Dutch and increased after an 1826 state decree allowing all land up to 400 feet beyond the low water mark to be developed. My work since 2010 has been more and more focused on the environmental effects of policies like this, on the impact of urban “progress.” In my historical obsessiveness, I see the city as palimpsests or erasures. Each erasure takes a toll on historical reality until no one can really remember what used to be there, and more importantly, how it was to be there. My explorations are an attempt to get back to the ground truth—or the water truth. This piece is the third in a series of meditations on loss of natural resources in the larger Brooklyn/Queens watershed, from the Hunters Point South/Newtown Creek area, to the Flushing River, and now the Gowanus Creek/Canal. The underwater sound and video recordings are my attempt to enter the unswimmable waters and imagine the final resting place of all the people and animals lost. The newspaper clippings anchor the aqueous recordings with their matter-of-fact descriptions. The tragedy of loss is quietly illustrated in the photojournalists’ crumpled images.

Find more about Edmund Mooney at

Drawings from House 5B Inspection Scrolls by Deanna Lee

This work was created during the WoW/UNY Governors Island Residency. Deanna Lee was in residence on Governors Island from September 4-30th, 2018.

Materials: Ink on vellum
Dimensions: 9 x 12 inches

Artist Statement: During my residency, I made rubbings of eleven walls in House 5B in Nolan Park, to record evidence of the physical effects of water and other natural forces on them. From these documentary works, made of colored pencil on tracing paper, I developed drawings, made of ink on vellum, that bring forth the organic character of the transformation on the walls. On a different wall, I placed these drawings in relationship to the existing features of its surface, as shown in the photographs. These drawings are part of an ongoing project, Amateur Archaeology.

Deanna Lee was born in Putnam County, New York, to parents from China and Taiwan, and raised in suburban Boston. She grew up spending time in her mother’s biology lab and taking classical-music lessons on several instruments for 14 years. Comprising drawings, paintings, site-specific installations, and public artworks, her work interprets everyday traces of transformation in natural systems and the built environment. Numerous venues have shown her work, including Robert Henry Contemporary, Wave Hill, The Drawing Center, and Trestle Projects. Her public artworks include a mural on jersey barriers for the NYC Department of Transportation and a window installation in DUMBO, Brooklyn. Her honors include awards from: Pollock-Krasner Foundation, Asia Society, National Academy, Millay Colony, and Saltonstall Foundation. She lives and works in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Mosholu by Maya Ciarrocchi

This work was created during the WoW/UNY Governors Island Residency. Maya Ciarrocchi was in residence on Governors Island from August 20-September 16, 2018.

Artist Statement: Mosholu is an in-progress series of drawings that map Tibbetts Brook in the Bronx, a waterway which has been directed underground, rerouted and renamed over time. To create this work, I presented these questions:

How does a city whose landscape is in flux affect the identity of its residents?

What is the relationship of urban dwellers to water in poorer neighborhoods versus those in affluent ones?

Who is granted access?

I will continue to add drawings to this series and eventually create a walk which follows the trajectory of the brook from Westchester to the Harlem River.

Maya Ciarrocchi is a Bronx-based interdisciplinary artist whose work addresses identity and the body as a site of history. She has exhibited nationally and internationally and in New York at: Abrons Arts Center, The Bronx Museum of the Arts, The Chocolate Factory, Kinescope Gallery and Smack Mellon. Ciarrocchi is a 2017 Bronx Museum of the Arts Artist in the Marketplace alum and has received residencies from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Millay Colony and the UCross Foundation. She received a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant, a Film/Video Grant from The Jerome Foundation and funding from The Puffin Foundation. In addition to her art-making practice, Ciarrocchi has created award winning projection design for dance and theater including the TONY-award winning Broadway musical The Band's Visit. She is currently a LABA Fellow in the Laboratory for Jewish Culture at the 14th Street Y and a fellow in the inaugural Moving Towards Justice Dance Art as Activism program at Gibney Dance.

Traces by Christina Catanese

This work was created during the WoW/UNY Governors Island Residency. Christina Catanese was in residence on Governors Island from August 6-19, 2018.

Video: Modern dance and dance drawing creation
Duration: 4 minutes
Music: Zoe Keating, "Legions (War)" excerpt
Choreography & studio performance: Christina Catanese

Artist Statement: This choreography was developed in response to explorations and research on the waterways of New York—their histories, pathways, and how we think about their futures. The choreography and drawing are part of a larger body of work, TRACES. Through site-responsive movement, these performance projects unpack ideas around the interface of human and natural boundaries while channeling the dynamic equilibrium that water seeks. Rivers and streams are constantly changing course, redistributing energy and carving new paths. In a parallel way, dance movement pathways are also not fixed, with some slight variations every time a choreographic phrase is performed. This series of choreographic works uses stream dynamics and river morphology as a point of departure that, when performed, create large drawings as an artifact of the dance, mapping the unique signature of each performance and, abstractly, the water body that inspired it.  

I also developed new methodologies for site-responsive dancemaking with roots in scientific methods. I developed, tested, and used this method during my residency, and some of the movement in the piece above came from this practice. Images of my process are below; a description of my methodology can be found here.

Created during public performance on August 12, 2018.
Dimensions: 4 x 12 feet
Materials: Graphite on paper  
Additional Photographs: Robin Michals

Christina Catanese works across the disciplines of dance, education, environmental science, and arts administration to inspire curiosity, empathy, and connection through creative encounters with nature. As an artist, she has participated in residencies at the Santa Fe Art Institute, Signal Fire, Works on Water, and SciArt Center, and has presented her work throughout Philadelphia and the region. As the Director of Environmental Art at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, Christina oversees all aspects of creating and implementing an environmental art exhibition program in the nature center’s 340 acres of forests, fields, and gallery spaces. Attending University of Pennsylvania, she has a Masters in Applied Geosciences and a BA in Environmental Studies and Political Science. 

The Language of Water by Valerie Sullivan Fuchs

This work was created during the WoW/UNY Governors Island Residency. Valerie Sullivan Fuchs was in residence on Governors Island from October 1-14, 2018.

Dimensions: Dimensions variable
Materials: Paper, inflatable, etched glass vessels, ice, photography, plastic buckets, paper, test tubes, plastic containers

Artist Statement: Being raised on a sustainable farm, and living in a geo-thermally heated home in rural Kentucky, I am influenced by and often integrate sustainable energy practices into my artwork. In anticipation of the fall residency, I created Power-Fall, 2018, a video where the waterfall of a creek, not only generates the movement of the camera, but also provides the energy for the camera battery, via a small hydro-electric generator. Alternative energy power, allows me to see the aesthetic and conceptual possibilities of energy, as I did with Power Plant, 2018, an installation at the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, in Louisville, Kentucky, where the light of the projector powers the projector.

With the Works on Water/Underwater New York Residency on Governors Island I took a different approach to energy, the unseen energy, manifested through intention and transference. I was inspired by the Hidden Messages of Water, a book written by Masaru Emoto, about his research on the enigmatic nature of water. Emoto placed water in containers with negative and positive words written on them, which he would freeze, and then with a microscopic camera, record the crystalline structures. His findings demonstrated that positive words/phrases, like “thank you, gratitude” would produce a more perfect structure of the frozen water. Accordingly, negative words, like “fool” would produce imperfect structures.

For The Language of Water, I gathered water from the East River, and conducted a similar experiment by first etching, and writing words, like “love” and “hate” in English and computer code, on glass vessels, freezing the water and then recording the results with photographs. In order to restore a balancing energy to the water after my experiment, I became an ordained minister in the state of New York to perform an energy rebalancing ritual before I returned the water back to the East River.

Valerie Sullivan Fuchs considers the transference of energy between nature, technology, and us with solar power, hydroelectricity, ritual, and video installations. Collections: 21c Museum, Revive Corporation, & Laura Lee Brown & Steve Wilson. Exhibitions: Spring/Break Art Show, New York, NY; 21c Museum, Bentonville, AR, & Cincinnati OH; at the Kentucky Center for Art;  American Embassy, Stockholm, Sweden; Contemporary Arts Museum, Santa Barbara, California; Non Grata Film & Video Festival, Pärnu, Estonia;  Galerie Eugene Lendl, Graz, Austria;  BELEF Art Festival, Belgrade, Serbia; Louisville International Airport; Speed Art Museum, Louisville, KY;  Publications:  Beauty Unlimited;   Bibliography:  Art Papers, Dialogue, American Theatre.  Awards: Great Meadows Foundation; Hadley Creatives Fellow; Al Smith Fellow; KY Foundation for Women. Program Mentor, Graduate School, with MFA The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.