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.