Snow In North Jersey

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Brendan Carroll curated this show, which opens Thursday, around the poem of the same name by August Kleinzahler. I’m happy to be introduced to this poem, as it takes place where I live, and I’m familiar with a lot of these landmarks and places. The park with the stone bears (and stone buffalo!) is my cue for when to yell “next stop” to get off the bus from New York. It’s great to know that the landscape that inspires me has inspired other artists and writers long before me. It makes me feel like I’m part of a larger conversation.

As the press release says:

The poem, Snow in North Jersey was chosen to be the theme of the exhibit because of its vivid imagery. “One of the motifs in Kleinzahler’s poem is the collision between the natural world and industrialization,” said Carroll. “This forceful coming together of disparate entities is jarring. It’s like a fight between a stick of cotton candy and a ball peen hammer.”

I love that last line. Here’s the poem:

Snow in North Jersey
Snow is falling along the Boulevard
and its little cemeteries hugged by transmission shops
and on the stone bear in the park
and the WWI monument, making a crust
on the soldier with his chinstrap and bayonet
It’s blowing in from the west
over the low hills and meadowlands
swirling past the giant cracking stills
that flare all night along the Turnpike
It is with a terrible deliberateness
that Mr Ruiz reaches into his back pocket
and counts out $18 and change for his Lotto picks
while in the upstairs of a thousand duplexes
with the TV on, cancers tick tick tick
and the snow continues to fall and blanket
these crowded rows of frame and brick
with their heartbreaking porches and castellations
and the red ’68 Impala on blocks
and Joe he’s drinking again and Myra’s boy Tommy
in the old days it would have been a disgrace
and Father Keenan’s not been having a good winter
and it was nice enough this morning
til noon anyhow with the sun sitting up there like a crown
over a great big dome of mackcrel sky
But it’s coming down now, all right
falling on the Dixon-Crucible Pencil factory
and on the spur to Bayonne
along the length of the Pulaski Skyway
and on St Bridgit’s and the Alibi Saloon
closed now, oh dear, I can’t remember how long
and lordjesussaveus they’re still making babies
and what did you expect from this life
and they’re calling for snow tonight and through tomorrow
an inch an hour over 9 Ridge Road and the old courthouse
and along the sluggish, gray Passaic
as it empties itself into Newark Bay
and on Grandpa’s store that sells curries now
and St Peter’s almost made it to the semis this year
It’s snowing on the canal and railyards, the busbarns and trucks
and on all the swells in their big houses along the river bluff
It’s snowing on us all
and on a three-story fix-up off of Van Vorst Park
a young lawyer couple from Manhattan bought
where for no special reason in the back of a closet
a thick, dusty volume from the Thirties sits open
with a broken spine and smelling of mildew
to a chapter titled Social Realism

New Collage

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This is a collage that I made for my Uncle Andy for Christmas.

In other news, yesterday and today I installed the shrines in the Erie Cut, with the help of Mike and Chris. Very exciting! It went 75% smoothly. More details as soon as I edit the photos.

FLOW Proposal

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Last year I made a series of landscape collages, titled Field Studies. These collages were composed of thousands of images of trees that I cut out of New York and New Jersey phone book ads. These tree images ranged from the simplest geometric abstractions to detailed color photos. By amassing these diverse representations of nature into a varied but coherent landscape, I was making what could be called subliminal forests of New York.

For the FLOW program, I am interested in selecting 5 to 8 images of trees from local advertisements, enlarging them, and integrating them into the real landscape of New York on Randall’s Island. I envision them as two-dimensional shapes to be installed in the park south of Field 71. They will be 4 to 7 feet tall and made from weather-proofed wood, anchored in the ground by concrete. I will consult with the VLA to make sure that I am not violating any copyright with my selection of images.

The fake trees will provide similar benefits to park-goers as real trees do: shade and aesthetic appeal. The sculptures will also create a visual relationship to existing trees. However, the use of chemically-treated lumber for a sculpture of a tree is clearly ironic, using a similar conceptual mechanism as Magritte’s famous Treachery of Images, but adding another layer: the identity of the material. This project would call attention to the artifice and design of parks as some of the only “natural” settings one encounters in a city. As Robert Smithson wrote, “The authentic artist cannot turn his back on the contradictions that inhabit our landscape.”

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