Teresita Fernández’s Fata Morgana Glows In Madison Square Park
The curators at the Madison Square Park Conservancy cultural arm, Mad. Sq. Art, have over the past five years or given us probably the most consistently interesting and engaging series of public art works as any group or space anywhere in New York City. From Jamie Plensa's Echo (that was the big white head) to Ivan Navarro's secretly neon-lit water towers This Land Is Your Land; from Paula Hayes's steampunkish Gazing Globes to Orly Genger's Red Blue and Yellow undulating rope walls; from Tony Cragg's giant, dynamic Walks of Life sculptures to Antony Gormley's menacing/protective figures of his Event Horizon piece, looming on the surrounding buildings… again and again, Madison Square Park makes room for compelling works of art. The latest installation is one of Mad. Sq. Art's most ambitious–and, subsequently, most controversial–pieces yet, a "tree-canopy" of mirrors leaves covering the main pathways surrounding the center lawn, Fata Morgana by Tersita Fernandez.
Tersita Fernández's Tree Canopy
I went last week to see how the installation was progressing, and there's definitely enough of the work in place to get a sense of what the entire Fata Morgana is going to feel like. First, a note on the controversy surrounding Fernandez's canopy. There was a group of (presumably) local Flatiron residents who, when the renderings were first unveiled, loudly complained in the media about what they perceived as the "blocking of the sun" and the "covering up of the real trees". Madison Square Park is already so small, they said, and this art is so big. Now, I don't remember hearing any outrage when almost the entire southern end of the park was closed so that Danny Meyer could construct an even larger version of his hugely profitable Shake Shack, nor any hue and cry when American Express takes over the northern end of the space every year for the heavily-branded US Open tennis watching parties, which actually closes off segments of the public park to all but Amex cardholders. Basically: the outcry over art strikes me as bit disingenuous, given all the private enterprise that occurs here all the time.
Fata Morgan In Madison Square Park
And, really, the detractors needn't have worried anyway! Fata Morgana looks like it will be an amazing piece of art, playing with light and perspective in myriad ways AND casting a lovely dappled shadow upon the walkways and benches that I know will be appreciated come July. And for those of us who enjoy direct sunlight, the park's central lawn will be unaffected by the art, so we can all still suntan away. When you walk under Fernandez's piece it's weirdly, though pleasantly, disorienting, the way the mirroring combines with the shadow play to make it seem almost like the real world has gone pixelated. It'll be interesting to see what it looks like in different conditions, too, like in the rain, or at night, or, since it will be up through next winter, in the snow and ice.
More Information on Fata Morgana and Madison Square Park
Fata Morgana by Teresita Fernandez will be officially open on June 1, and run through "winter of 2015-16", though you can go to Madison Square Park now for your own sneak peek. For more information on the piece, and the park as a whole, see here.