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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.

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, Saltonstall Foundation. She lives and works in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.