Updated: Oct 21, 2021
The best way to measure the impact of public art is to talk about it and to tell our art encounter stories. Below are some reflections from one of our Concourse House mothers, F. Thorburn.
Photo Credit: Zaid Islam (2020)
When I first arrived at Concourse House, my son pointed to three crochet sunflowers on the fence by the subway entrance. Bright yellow circles spin and pop out of the vertical lines and cooler tones of the fence. “Look!” he said, and he caressed the threads. The installation was soft to the touch, despite the hardship of the early winter’s rain and snow. What a metaphor for the mothers at Concourse House! The texture of the artwork sets a homey mood, and sunflower imagery could lift anyone’s spirits. A woman in a cold situation can be welcomed with a warm message of sanctuary. I see it everyday and it never gets old.
When I observe artworks, I like to think about the ways artworks are created. The work is embodied in the finished product. Crochet is the type of craft that makes me think intimately about the hands that went into the artwork. Imagine the subtle, swirling movements of a crocheter's wrists, repeating and repeating. Note the liminal moment when the artist fades into his or her groove. The production process becomes meditative. In my experience, it’s work that might seem tedious, yet it’s relaxing. Such projects are good for the soul.
It wasn’t until I met Jess Rolls, the curator of the art class at Concourse House and of the exhibition, that I learned that the crochet sunflowers were a part of a bigger picture: an entire exhibition of a community art collaboration called Art on the Concourse. From then, I was led to artontheconcourse.org, which features photos of some of the artists with their work. I was enthused to put faces to the hands which knitted the sunflowers, and moved to realize that they were residents of Fordham Bedford Housing Corporation agencies. According to the website, the project was conceived out of the arts and crafts group at Serviam Gardens and Heights. This notion further emphasized the neighborly sensations provoked by Sunflowers.
Also on the site is a Map of the 2020 Exhibition and Public Art Walk. I take walks often, so I was excited to easily be able to observe artworks along the way, and to feel a sense of neighborhood all around.
Look at this, I’m Healing
Photo Credit: Isabelle Gutierrez (2021)
The photography billboards at Serviam Gardens capture the spirit of collaborative, socially-engaged artwork in very surprising ways. The enlarged scale of the photos leaves little space for distractions to pull us away. The bright-green background alerts us of the artwork, separates the series of photos from the environment, and pushes it forward to our focus. This allows the work to have the mood and accessibility of public art while letting it stand out somewhat alone as if it were in a museum.
A photo is a framed world which observers look into. Each photo in this artwork has a very different story, style and perspective than its neighboring photos; yet, the side-by-side positioning of the photos asks audiences to read them like a unified stream of thoughts. As a whole, the artwork asks me to contemplate the complicated navigation of inner and outer life; nature and infrastructure; personal and societal relations.
Photo Credit: Melanie Gonzalez (2020)
The portraits were a very important inclusion in the work due to the essence of community that they provided. It was refreshing to see real people from various walks of life to be represented in a big, bright frame. This project offers many glimpses into many different worlds. Brick walls can seem so lifeless, but there are infinite stories within them. Look at me, I’m Healing gives life to the building and expresses the personalities of the residents. This project portrays a strong community that maintains togetherness through a pandemic.
I admire the choice of photography, because it asks the audience to directly share the visual perspective of an individual. I see myself in the photographers’ positions looking out toward the world after the season and the pandemic have pulled us inward. The collection calls us to examine a variety of perspectives. In one frame, I look closely at clovers on the ground. In another, I look to a tall building in the distance. When I combine the title of the piece with the perspectives of the photos, I sense a euphoric epiphany. Have you ever had a clarifying moment which changed everything for the better? Have you ever felt like the sun was rising to shed light on all of the joys that you have overlooked? Look down at these clovers, look up at those buildings, look at my friend, look at me. Look at this, I’m healing!
Photo Credit: Isabelle Gutierrez (2021)
We invite you as well to spend five minutes free writing about your encounter with any of the artworks in the AOTC exhibition. What were your initial thoughts? How did you feel? Write however you like! Share your experiences in the comments.