In celebration of The New York Public Library's 100th birthday, artist Katherine Jackson has created Storylights a series of three site-specific exhibitions with the first one presented in the new reading room on the first floor. The title, Storylights, conveys the dual nature of libraries: physical structures (“stories”) housing the most intangible realities, and the endlessly proliferating “stories” we humans tell ourselves. The exhibition consists of edge-lit and back lit etched glass pieces. The new work includes large scale abstract images, inspired by physical elements of Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, and NYPL's architectural digital library. The other aspect of the exhibition is the text-based work -- which tell or hint at stories, many of which are described below -- along with images of the Manhattan Bridge. All the pieces are lit with LED or fluorescent lights. The effect is to suggest the bringing together (“bridging”) of the luminous world of the imagination and the outer world of steel, stone and light.
Please join us for the reception taking place in the reading room on the first floor on Thursday October 20 from 6:00-9:00 p.m.
Artist and 2011 Guggenheim Fellow Katherine Bradford joins Katherine Jackson for An Artist Dialogue on Saturday December 17 at 2:30 p.m. The event is free. Elevators access the 6th floor at 2:00 p.m.
This exhibition along with Art Wall on Third opening on September 10 and Art in the Windows opening on Dec. 1 are curated by Arezoo Moseni.
Stories behind some of the pieces in Storylights:
Stories and Column was inspired by the architectural drawings in NYPL digital library, and the physical features of the library itself.
The Drowning of the Cockle Pickers is a response to the tragic drowning (in 2006) of 21 Chinese cockle pickers (cockles are a small shellfish) in Morecambe Bay on the west coast of England. Inexperienced and incorrectly informed about the killer tides of the vast, shallow bay, these undocumented immigrants were drowned by the onrushing waters. Unable to speak English, they could not call for help, when they realized they were drowning but used their cell phones to call their relatives in China. One caller reportedly said, “The sea is gobbling us up.” I entered this phrase into Sherlock, the automated translation program, which translated it into the Chinese characters I used in the piece. The literal English translation of these characters is, “wolf tiger sea swallow us.” The second glass panel contains phrases and lines of poetry that seemed to me appropriate for the tragedy including: “’I don’t have a door’, says the rock” (Wislava Szymborska); “Don’t be afraid, the clown’s afraid too,” (Charles Mingus); and “Cassandra, your eyes are like tigers, with no words written on them,” (Ezra Pound).
Where am I going if not toward you? is a line from a poem by David Weiss (part of a project described below).
Bridge to Somewhere I & II and Visitor were created to commemorate the 100th birthday (October 4, 2009) of the Manhattan Bridge.
Turn to the thorn jugglers and Hard to find something there isn’t a lot of are lines from the poems of David Weiss. These pieces were part of a 16 piece suite, using lines from Weiss’ poetry.
Bus Driver’s Dream, Still Dancing, and Serafin were the results of conversations with immigrants in an English language school in Brooklyn. Suchitra Van and I visited the school as part of an exhibition we created for the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side. One student dreamt of becoming a school bus driver. A few women spoke of salsa dancing to the radio as their way of unwinding. Another, who invited us to her home, collected traditional ceramic pots from her home town, Oaxaca. Serafin was a Mexican who worked at an all-night grocery on Utica Avenue. He invited us into his tiny apartment with his hand-made English phonetic alphabet taped to a wall. He had not seen his family in Mexico in four years.
La Sirene is the name of the Haitian goddess of the sea. The piece is a small part of an ongoing project, started after the earthquake, and reflecting my fascination with Haitian voodoo deities.
Too pretty, dreamlike mimicry is a line from Elizabeth Bishop’s poem, The Armadillo.
Night contains a line from the book length poem (of the same name) by Bolivian poet, Jaime Saenz. It is part of an ongoing project based on the poem.
Roots contains a poem by Emily Dickinson (“Because I could not stop for Death -- He kindly stopped for me -”) and the words of a Haitian minister we met during our work on the Tenement Museum project. I grafted these two unlikely elements together after meeting the minister, Macsen St. Pierre, at the English language school. He was in the US, learning English to study English theology for his ministry in Haiti. He said English theology was “much better” than French theology. I do not know much about either, so I could not say, but Emily Dickinson always struck me as English theology at its best. Then, after the terrible troubles in Haiti, the convergence of the first line of her poem, and Macsen’s dream seemed ever more appropriate.
At Mid-Manhattan Library