Naomi Lawrence: Flowers of Turtle Island Arrive in East Harlem




We knew there had to be a story behind an installation named ‘Flowers of Turtle Island‘, and so it is that artist, Naomi Lawrence, created her large-scale floral installation based on the folkloric tales told by the Lenape and other tribes of indigenous Americans, passed down verbally from generation to generation.

Flowers of Turtle Island becomes the 4th temporary public art installation that appeared in the neighborhoods of Harlem this Summer. Installed at Eugene McCabe Field, the Fiber Art mural completes the public art gallery curated by Connie Lee that begins in Harlem Art Park with Capucine Bourcart’s Plastic Fantastic!, winds through Marcus Garvey park with Susan Stair’s Ascending the Mountain, and ends at Collyer Brothers Park with Julio Valdez’s I Can’t Breathe. An additional art installation will be added this fall.

Beginning with the first of three panels along 121st Street, the image above (corner of Park Avenue) begins with the Black-Eyed Susan; Aster Blue Violets; Echinacea Coneflowers; and Cow Parsley.

The second panel (above) boasts Lady Slipper Orchids; Aster Blue Violets; and Black-Eyed Susan.

With Flowers of Turtle Island, Lawrence returns to one of her favorite sites to install her now iconic flowers and fiber art murals. Park Avenue at 121st Street sits in the shadow of the elevated train tracks that loom above. “The tracks are a psychological barrier that her work serves to overcome. We selected this site because when Lawrence installed here tin 2019, it became a destination for community residents and visitors to the neighborhood. While Metro North commuters can see the installation as the train passes by, the patients and staff at the Henry J. Carter Center have views from their windows that overlook Eugene McCabe Field.”…… Connie Lee

As part of the second panel (above and below), Blazing Star Liatris.

All of the flower species included in this mural are native to North America. Echinacea, Coneflower, Bloodroot, Aster, Blue Violets, Goldenrod, Cow Parsley, Lady-Slipper orchids, Black Eyed Susan and Blazing Star Liatris, all grew wild on Turtle Island, the name that the Lenape Indians and indigenous people of North America used to identify the land.

Lawrence informs us that many of the flowers that we now consider native to New York and North America were actually brought here by European settlers. Her research has determined which species were growing here prior to colonization.

Above and below, the third panel consists of Echinacea Cornflower; Bloodroot; Aster Blue Violets; a gorgeous Goldenrod, followed by Cow Parsley.

About the artist: Naomi Lawrence is originally from England, and trained in floral Design at the London School for the Arts. In 2012, while living in New York and inspired by social media, Lawrence explored yarn bombing, street art style before formalizing her public art practice. Lawrence’s first public art installation was titled Blue Iris back inn 2014, and was installed in her own neighborhood of East Harlem. Dozens of flowers later, she is a well-known fiber artist, installing oversized flowers throughout the city.

In 2019, and in reaction to the former administration’s position on immigration, Lawrence responded by temporarily abandoning her flower series and created a Monarch Butterfly, to show support for immigrants. Over the past 6 years, she has designed and produced an average of 5 public art installations annually while maintaining a community-based practice that engages people on their own streets and sidewalks.

About the curator: Connie Lee is the founder of Art Lives Here, a collaborative arts group that creates opportunities for under-recognized artists and provides access to art in communities that are often excluded by bringing quality art installations, exhibitions and performances to people where they live and work.

Harlem residents know her as an advocate for public space. Lee previously served as President of the Marcus Garvey Park Alliance for more that 6 years. During this time, she developed an initiative to bring quality public art installations to Marcus Garvey park. The initiative quickly spread beyond the borders of the park, encompassing parks and public spaces throughout the neighborhoods of Harlem. Follow Connie Lee Curated on Instagram.

The last time we were on this corner, it was for Naomi Lawrence: La Flor De Mi Madre in 2019.

Naomi Lawrence: Flowers of Turtle Island is on view on 121st Street and Park Avenue in East Harlem. This public art is made possible with funds from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC) with support from Connie Lee and Marcus Garvey Park Alliance.

Follow the artist, Naomi Lawrence on Instagram.