Where to go was the question that was on my mind when I awoke on Saturday morning and after a cup of hot strong coffee I decided on Socrates Sculputre Park, an urban open air museum at then end of Broadway bordered by Vernon Boulevard and the East River waterfront. I took the Q69 bus to 21st Street and Broadway and walked toward the park taking shots as I strolled through this urban neighborhood. It was my second visit to Socrates and the last time I was there it was in between exhibits but I was in luck this weekend as EAF13 – the 2013 Emerging Artist Fellowship exhibition was on, showcasing 15 new distinctive pieces of visual art.
Now, this was my kind of art; skillfully crafted from everyday stuff which is the “stuff” I love to photograph. The best part about this museum is the exhibits are not just for viewing but for touching, climbing, crawling and probing; a sprawling surreal art playground.
As I approached the entrance my eyes were drawn up to a painting of a dazzling African sunset poised on top of the gates created by artist Wangechi Mutu entitled “Broadway Billboard”. Upon entering the park I turned toward the right to a piece by Aida Šehović: “Obstacle Course.” This was very popular with the adults as much as the children. I watched as a women walked over to the exhibit, looking pensively at the rubber tires at the head of the course, then dropped her bag and showed off her dexterity by hopping through the old car tires with the agility of a 9 year old. Then satisfied that she still had it, picked up her bag and waltzed over to the Saturday morning Tai-Chi class near the exhibit.
The most intriguing was Justin Randolph Thompson’s “Brutus Jones,” a hulking creation of an old rusted wreck and an enormous jutting head glaring out at the visitors. I loved “Tree Wood” by Toshihiro Oki, an open wooden structure in the middle of a small grove of trees. I maneuvered my body within the frame work so I could look up through the beams and boughs and capture the sunlight peering through the leaves. I was delighted when I noticed a huge chandelier dangling from one of the roof beams giving one a feeling of being in an upscale tree house.
I walked around each piece looking through my lens for that special angle that would best showcase the size, shape, texture and color while marveling at how the artists turned a combination of wood, wire, stone, plastic, metal, paint, enamel, water bottles and canvas into urban sculptures. I listed all of the artists, whose work I loving photographed, at the end of this post.
As you wander through the park you begin to see that it is an urban photographer’s paradise. The main office or staff house is actually old cargo containers stacked one on top of the other and painted a dark forest green with a greenhouse topping it off. There were big wooden spools used as tables with tree stumps for seats. A wide open metal work shed for the artists to work in littered with the remnants of creation. But, my favorite spot of all was behind the shed where anything and everything that is used by the park staff and the artists is stored. Most of it was old and worn, some items covered in cobwebs, dust and rust. There were ladders, shovels, saw-horses, poles, containers of all shapes and sizes, winches and pulleys, ropes and rags, grease and glue and a hundred other tools. There was a huge white iron ball that I had to assume was an old buoy pulled from the East River and will someday be a part of an artists imagination and crafted into a new exhibit. Two pussy cats made this their urban abode; one napped on top of a container while another pair of golden feline eyes watched me from behind a leafy cover as I took my fill of photos.
When I exited the park I turned left and walked just a few feet over to Hallet’s Cove. A teeny-tiny strip of shore line and a great place to find grunge. It happened to be low tide and I walked about in the mire and the very pungent smell of the murky waters lapping at my feet. Sun blackened seaweed covered the rocky beach. Sticking up from the sand was a rotted wooden stump resembling an ancient worn totem pole. There were a few pieces of urban debris that washed up on a shore; a bottle without a message but with a seaweed beard and a lost smart phone cover. I climbed around on some boulders that are hidden during high tide, and looked for riparian treasures to photograph. I stumbled upon two large stone blocks, one with a seaweed hair pierce nestle in the sand and the other perched on top of a big boulder. Each had a large single letter carved on them like those children’s wooden ABC blocks. I have seen these blocks inside the park and I don’t know if they were carved by an artist or left over from when the park was an abandoned riverside landfill.
This was definitely a fun, unique and interesting day of urban shooting in my borough of Queens, and I hope you enjoy the images below.