Full Steam Ahead

by Joseph McKeown

Artist Arlene Shechet has created a new site-specific installation at Madison Square Park featuring a series of new sculptures in porcelain, wood, steel, and cast iron installed around and within the emptied circular reflecting pool. Initially inspired by memories of a sunken living room in her grandparents’ apartment, Shechet wants visitors to step down into the reflecting pool to “linger and reflect.” In her sculptures for the installation, she uses forms that reflect her interest in historical decorative arts and references flora and fauna, including a lion’s head and paw, a bird’s colossal feather, and tree-like sculptures and branches. “My hope has been to reimagine the hardscape of the Park with delight and surprise,” Shechet says. “New Yorkers rely on the sidewalks, the pavement, and the street as the core of their urban lives. Full Steam Ahead becomes a lively and human amphitheater, softening the hardscape through sculptural intervention evocative of 18th-century garden landscapes.”