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.

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. 


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.