by Sarah McCully

The west side just got a little more artistic. Two new temporary public sculptures were erected earlier this month in Riverside Park South in exhibitions presented by the Riverside Park Conservancy and the Art Students League of New York

The two pieces, “Life Dance” by Susan Markowitz Meredith and “Hope” by Helen Draves, decorate the park near West 61st Street, overlooking both the Manhattan skyline and the Hudson River beyond. Both pieces represent a resilient and communal New York City in their own way, taking their place among the wide seating areas and native plantings that characterize this park.

“Life Dance” contains three organic metal forms erupting from a concrete base in different shades of blue and green. The spiraling beams each contain rounded plastic shapes that seem to form a staircase, leading up to the top. NYC Parks suggests that the three offshoots are “metaphors for an intangible growth process,” indicating that our own journeys through the city are not isolated, but rather enhanced by embracing our communities.

“Hope” reflects on the pandemic’s impact on the city with a large metal mask facing the water. It is filled with real masks, cast in resin and containing written messages of remembering and loss. Ceramic birds fly in towards the sculpture at the top, eventually blending together to fill the shape of the mask itself. As an artist, Draves is known for exploring “the passage of time and its physical and metaphorical impact on memory” (NYC Parks). In “Hope, she invites us to ponder those very questions, and to reflect on our own pandemic experiences within the city.

Both statues will be available for visiting and viewing through May 19, 2024.

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