Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY
June 3 – September 7, 2021
More Art’s public art commission by Mary Mattingly is a multiform project and installation that brings attention to New York City’s intricate drinking water system and the communities who steward upstate watersheds and drinking water sources. With this project Mattingly emphasizes the human care that goes into having access to clean water and calls for more reciprocal relationships among our neighboring communities and the planet. The project included a digital campaign, education initiatives, and a large-scale, public sculpture installation which took place June 3 – September 7, 2021 at the Grand Army Plaza entrance to Prospect Park in Brooklyn. In addition, to keep this essential conversation going with park visitors into the future, the Prospect Park Alliance commissioned Mattingly and More Art to produce a walking tour through the Park’s watershed, designed in connection with the launch of ecoWEIR, a natural filtration pilot project for the Park’s manmade watercourse. Read more about the audio tour, Waterways and Woodlands, below.
The sculpture, titled Watershed Core, a 10ft tall geodesic dome, is designed as a structural ecosystem covered in native plants that filter water in a gravity-fed system that mimics the geologic features of the watershed. “Watershed Core is an active sculpture that follows A Year of Public Water, a timeline recounting the building of New York City’s drinking watershed,” said Mary Mattingly. “The sculpture draws from the minerals and geologic features of the watershed to filter water. The Public Water project brings attention to New York City’s drinking water system in order to build more reciprocal exchanges between people who live in New York City’s drinking watershed and its drinking-water users in the city, to promote care and commons.”
Mary Mattingly and More Art, in partnership with Prospect Park Alliance, have developed Waterways and Woodlands, a free audio tour through Prospect Park powered by Gesso. Learn about the natural and human-made ecosystems found in Prospect Park, and its connection to New York City’s water supply through the layers of history, environmental stewardship, and human intervention that are hidden beneath the surface. Listen to Waterways and Woodlands here.
A Year of Public Water, Digital campaign
In 2021, More Art developed A Year of Public Water—a yearlong digital exploration including a dedicated project website and social media campaign to share information with a wider audience, to open an extended dialogue about water access, and to contextualize the project in anticipation of the sculpture’s opening. The website and digital campaign explore the long and complex history of New York City’s drinking watershed starting in geologic time and continuing through where we are today. It confronts social, political, economic issues relating to equitable access to clean water in the US, for example agricultural runoffs, regulation and control–i.e., eminent domain and rollbacks of EPA regulations–and aging infrastructure like lead pipes that contaminate drinking water, all disproportionately affecting minority and low-income communities. In doing so, it highlights how infrastructure repairs, environmental clean-ups, and water privatization have all led to inequitable access to clean and affordable drinking water. The work also brings attention to the rarely-seen labor that humans and non-humans do to care for New York City’s drinking water. Addressing environmental, health, and economic conditions in and around New York City’s watershed is a vital precondition for the creation of a more just present and future for urban and rural New Yorkers. www.public-water.com
Education around stewardship is an essential programmatic component of PUBLIC WATER, and Mattingly and the More Art team brought the project into learning spaces. In early 2020, More Art piloted an education program around water and land use with the AP Environmental Science (APES) class at the Bronx Center for Science and Mathematics High School (BXCSM).
partners + support.
PUBLIC WATER is produced by More Art in partnership with the Brooklyn Public Library, Prospect Park Alliance, and the NYC Parks Department. An earlier version of the sculpture originally appeared as “The Parts Never Lead to the Whole” in the exhibition Stars Down to Earth: Mary Mattingly & Dario Robleto (January 13 – March 13, 2020) at the Central Library.
The project is supported in part by the Lambent Foundation, the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation, the Joseph Robert Foundation, and New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Additional support for educational programming has been provided by the Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation. The walking tour is a project of the Environmental Protection Fund Grant Program for Park Services Administered by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation.
about the artist.
Mary Mattingly is a visual artist. She founded Swale, an edible landscape on a barge in New York City. Docked at public piers but following waterways common laws, Swale circumnavigates New York’s public land laws, allowing anyone to pick free fresh food. Swale instigated and co-created the “foodway” in Concrete Plant Park, the Bronx in 2017. The “foodway” is the first time New York City Parks is allowing people to publicly forage in over 100 years.
Mattingly recently completed a two-part sculpture Pull for the International Havana Biennial with the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de la Habana and the Bronx Museum of the Arts, two spherical ecosystems that were pulled across Habana to Parque Central and the museum. In 2018 she received a commission from BRIC Arts Media to build What Happens After which involved dismantling a military vehicle (LMTV) that had been to Afghanistan and deconstructing its mineral supply chain. A group of artists including performance artists, veterans, and public space activists re-envisioned the vehicle for BRIC. In 2016 Mattingly had led a similar project at the Museum of Modern Art. In 2009 Mattingly founded the Waterpod Project, a barge-based public space and self-sufficient habitat that hosted over 200,000 visitors in New York. In 2014, an artist residency on the water called WetLand launched in Philadelphia and traveled to the Parrish Museum. It was utilized by the University of Pennsylvania’s Environmental Humanities program until 2017.