During the past year and a half, places of sanctuary have been more important than ever. A new exhibition opening at Socrates Sculpture Park addresses several interpretations of sanctuary – as spaces of rest and protection; as sacred sites; and as supportive environments. Thirteen artists selected through an open call have created eleven new projects on this theme. Projects were created onsite at the Park’s outdoor studios with financial support and technical assistance as part of the Socrates Annual Fellowship.
Since its inception in 1986, Socrates Sculpture Park has been a sanctuary for artists and the public. Applicants to the 2021 open call were asked to submit proposals that addressed the many meanings of sanctuary – as spaces of rest and protection; as holy sites; and as supportive environments.
Over 350 artists submitted proposals, which were reviewed by a jury composed of Socrates staff members – Executive Director John Hatfield, Curator & Director of Exhibitions Jess Wilcox, and Curatorial Assistant danilo machado – as well as two curatorial advisors: Emma Enderby, Chief Curator at The Shed and Lauren Argentina Zelaya, Director of Public Programs at the Brooklyn Museum.
The eleven projects selected represent a range of interpretations of the theme, drawing from diverse communities, traditions, and artistic strategies to create unique sculptures and installations of sanctuary. The artist(s) for each project are awarded a $6,000 production grant, $1,500 honorarium, and three-months of access to the resources and fabrication facilities of the Park’s outdoor artist studio. The fellowship culminates in The 2021 Socrates Annual: Sanctuary exhibition, opening in October 2021.
For many of the artists sanctuary is not necessarily a fixed geographical location, but a time-bound space that is created and recreated against the backdrop of threats such as illness, climate change, the collapse of the social service systems, and violence of racism and colonialism. Sound – both musical and spoken words – situate and unite communities of sanctuary in many of these works, a visceral mode of communicating refuge.
John Hatfield, Socrates’ outgoing Executive Director says, “I am so pleased to welcome another cohort of Socrates Artist Fellows and proud of the role Socrates plays in supporting artists with commissions and presenting their work to a diverse audience in Queens. This year’s theme is perfect for the Park, which has served as a sanctuary of nature and art for so many visitors during the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Sentinel Offering Kernos: Woodcock, Oysters, Lichen
Stoneware ceramic, glazes, steel, epoxy, and spray paint
Rachel Frank continues her exploration of our changing ecological relationships with Sentinel Offering Kernos: Woodcock, Oysters, Lichen, a large-scale ceramic interpretation of an ancient Greek ringed offering vessel, whose cups held offerings of grain. In Frank’s interpretation, the kernos’ cups are envisioned in the forms of three local indicator species, whose health or absence offer early signals of environmental change. When filled with grain or water, birds and insects can find nourishment here. The kernos offers a haven, encouraging new ceremonies of ritual and community, inclusive of the local Greek community in Astoria, whose ancestors originated the kernos form.
*2021 Devra Freelander Artist Fellow
Salvaged oak tree, epoxy resin, acrylic urethane, gravel, landscape edging
Inspired by Shinto spiritualism, Moko Fukuyama’s Shrine features a group of monolithic wooden sculptures evocative of the form and function of fishing lures. Shinto, Japan’s indigenous religion, seeks to cultivate a harmonious relationship between humans, “kami” (deities), and the natural world. Shrine also draws upon Fukuyama’s upbringing in Japan and her experience with recreational sport-fishing. The ‘lures,’ carved from logs whose curves, grain and burl inform Fukuyama’s sculptural interventions, pay homage to the Shinto legacy of developing the character inherent within a landscape. As an immersive monument, Shrine presents fish and forests as symbols of natural abundance, susceptible to principles of scarcity. The oak tree used for the sculpture was donated by East Woods School in Oyster Bay, Long Island, repurposed after it was knocked down by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
Gi (Ginny) Huo
an act or an offering, what if?
Wood, vinyl, paint
Exploring ideas of belief and her own family’s heritage, Huo’s structure incorporates text and images referencing Mormonism and Korean Shamanism. A wooden archway, steps, and a ramp covered in vinyl landscapes, skyscapes, and words encourage participants to reflect on creating new narratives beyond colonized religious histories. As a part of the project, Huo is recording What If? Belief Podcast, which connects, archives, and amplifies the voices of QTBIPOC (Queer / Trans Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) youth, adults, and seniors around how they navigate their own belief systems.
Haven No. 3
Wood, plexi, crushed shells, ceramic shards
Inspired by the structure made to safeguard activist Angela Davis at Madison Square Garden in 1972, Anina Major’s Haven No. 3 is a wood and plexiglass installation built to express the importance of protecting all Black women while simultaneously providing a place for stillness. The crushed shells and ceramic shards installed at the bed of the installation are recurring materials for the artist, who often references her Caribbean heritage.
Catch a Stick of Fire II
Aluminum, hardware, glazed stoneware clay, coral bell plants, soil, sunlight, h2o; care
For Jeffrey Meris, self-care includes care for plants. Drawing from his personal ritual of “Self-Care Saturdays,” Meris presents Catch a Stick of Fire II, an installation of arching aluminum tubes, ceramic vessels whose shape references the Mario character Bullet Bill holding coral bells plants. The branching plant-like sculptural form suggests regeneration and growth as necessary counters to systemic violence.
*New York Community Trust Van Lier Artist Fellow
Levani (aka Levan Mindiashvili)
127.1 bpm (for my dancing peers)
Steel, laboratory hardware, stainless steel, palm tree buds casted in clear urethane resin, stainless steel powder and silicone gel, lights, sound
Celebrating the political, embodied sanctuary of the queer, underground dance floor, Levani’s 127.1 bpm (for my dancing peers) is a palm-leaf ornamented gate installation activated through dance. The artist considers how the pandemic emphasized the fragility of these spaces for marginalized communities and encountered new ways of gathering (including how “parks were the new clubs”). The sculpture’s title references a particularly danceable beat per minute, a speed located within a range considered “magic” by DJs. For Levani, sanctuary is not a destination. Rather they envision it as a double-sided threshold, or portal. Collaborating with the co-creative platform and “Rave Sustainability Project” Rave Scout Cookies, the artist hosts a live DJ’ed dance party Levani’s Room: ecdysis.
Wood, concrete, speakers, audio equipment
Taking up research into the New York City harbor islands – including the nearby Roosevelt Island (previously known as Welfare Island) – as former sites for the quarantined, incarcerated, and infirm, Andrea Ray creates Rest Cure, an audio and participatory installation that invites visitors to recline and listen. A sound recording airs our related sense of alienation under COVID but transforms it to an expanded network of care. The project asks, can the withdrawal from society that the pandemic caused have created a new political subjectivity, one that acknowledges our entangled nature with all others?
sleeping with clenched fists, dreaming with clenched fists
Neon mounted on upcycled tornado box springs, eight-channel oscillator, metal
LJ Roberts’s neon installation sleeping with clenched fists, dreaming with clenched fists translates those words into Yiddish and presents them on a pair of vintage tornado-style bed box springs. The work, which incorporates the handwriting of the artist’s father, honors their Jewish heritage and more broadly immigrant communities in New York for which the city serves as sanctuary. The piece marks rest and dreaming as inseparable from both sanctuary and struggle.
Yvonne Shortt, Jenna Boldebuck, & Kelly Li
African American Marbleization-An Act of Civil Disobedience: Hair Sanctuary
Cement, Wood, Steel, Marble Dust, Porcelain, Water
Built with commonly-found cement bricks around a water feature, African American Marbleization-An Act of Civil Disobedience: Hair Sanctuary provides a place for reflection and conversation. The collaborative sculpture features hair picks and accompanying audio stories narrating a range of gendered and raced experiences, many celebrating hair and hair care as a kind of sanctuary. The project continues Shortt’s series of sculptures African American Marbleization, which have often been installed guerilla-style in public spaces.
Cueva | Cenote
Agua creativa, elementos de la tierra, brillante, alma y presión
(Creative waters, elements of the Earth, glitter, spirit, and pressure)
Cenotes are natural sinkholes of exposed groundwater made after the collapse of bedrock, most associated with the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico and the spiritual practices of the ancient Maya. With her sculpture Cueva | Cenote, Torres brings this geological site to Socrates, presenting a perfect circular environment visitors can immerse themselves in. The bottom of the trees surrounding the sculpture are painted white by the artist to represent the sacred Ceiba tree found in Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Peru.
*New York Community Trust Van Lier Artist Fellow
MZ.19 (Patronus: For Mothers Who’ve Lost Their Sons & Sons That Lost Their Mothers)
3-D printed polyethylene terephthalate glycol
MZ.19 is a new performative sculptural installation consisting of two glowing 3D-printed statues, one of the Virgin Mary and one of the deer Bambi from the 1942 Disney film. Named after the charm which produces silver protective guardians from the Harry Potter series and connected to George Floyd’s last plea for his mother, the figures are memorials intended to create a sanctuary born of light. Zohore commissioned composer Joshua Coyne to develop a score to accompany the works and become the site for a discrete musical performance of Coyne’s Visions of Mary during the opening, at 5 PM.
*New York Community Trust Van Lier Artist Fellow
Sanctuary: The 2021 Socrates Annual is on view October 2, 2021 – March 6, 2022. A public opening will take place at the Park on Saturday, October 2nd from 3-6 PM featuring a performance from artist Monsieur Zohore & composer Joshua Coyne at 5 PM. Socrates Sculpture Garden is located at 32-01 Vernon Boulevard in Long Island City, NY.