Before New York was the concrete jungle it is today, it had a lot more natural resources. Central Park wasn’t an anomaly of green space, and there was once an underground water preserve called Collect Pond under what’s now Tribeca.
Canal Street gets its name from a canal that flowed from that pond. In the 1800s, it was covered over after it became too polluted, and the resulting road now divides Chinatown and Little Italy. Paying homage to the street’s history, the front half of an architecture studio on Canal will, through January 11, be dedicated to artists’ interpretations of water and our relationship to it.
Produced by Osmunda, a group of creatives that use art to highlight humans’ interactions with their environment, the “ourWaters” installation combines sound with various mediums, from photographs to canvases naturally dyed with the imprints of human silhouettes. In the middle is a large pyramid, complete with a table and stools underneath, that is meant to be the home for conversations about the works and their meaning.
Paintings and photographs skirt the pyramid, which is the work of DJ-producer Joro-Boro (a fixture at the old Bulgarian Bar on Canal Street). A pyraponic plant bathed in a soothing purple light greets visitors almost immediately. Fresh-scented herbs are housed in a smaller pyramid sculpture that compliments the pipes that water the plant. Not too far away, there’s a map of New York City that highlights every one of the over 650,000 trees in New York.
The point of the experience is to create a dialogue about sustainability, the environment and water. So says Desdemona Dallas, an Osmunda member and Bedford + Bowery contributor. She wanted to be a writer, until Occupy Wall Street made her realize that she didn’t have the words to express what she was seeing. Dallas found her niche when she switched from documentary photography to art photography. Her photos in the Etching series capture water in its most natural elements–rivers, flowing on rocks, and in breaking waves–and make the blues richer, the browns brighter, and so forth, to represent being shaped by the natural world.
Osmunda offers up free water at the entrance of the installation, so passersby can refill their bottles instead of buying plastic ones. Visitors can also sign a pledge to not use plastic water bottles for one month. (In addition, 10 percent of art sales go to the Newtown Creek Alliance, a Greenpoint-based environmental organization.) Osmunda hopes to highlight that this natural resource, though enjoyed by humans every day, still needs to be cared for.
The Osmunda ourWaters gallery is at 332 Canal Street, with an opening party on December 13 from 6-9pm.