This summer, a walk along the oval paths in Madison Square Park takes on an extra dimension in mood and light. Overhead, reflective golden canopies affixed on scaffolding swirl in circular leafy shapes, mirroring the leaves of nearby trees. The artwork is by Teresita Fernández (b. 1968), a 2005 MacArthur Fellow and Brooklyn-based artist known for landscape sculpture. The work is said to be the largest installation in the history of the park, a big claim as the program Mad. Sq. Art has hosted many ambitious exhibitions by well-known artists, especially in recent years.
Each overhead piece is constructed as parallel raggedy cutouts, like ice cream sandwiches, and layered. The sunshine spills down through the openings and dapples the walkways and passersby. In turn, the patterned light reflects back up on the mirrored canopies, creating endless and varying conversations among the trees, ourselves, the sun, and the sidewalk.
While the dappled sunshine is cool and welcoming, the title of the work, Fata Morgana, refers to the illusion at the ocean's horizon line that sends sailors to death at sea. Here, the semblance of mirage or even an attempt at high art is undermined by the serious and necessary weight of the steel scaffold, distracting at times, that prevent the canopies from crashing down on the paver sidewalks. I am grateful for this. I also somehow missed the promised glow from a distance, but it could have been the time of day. Each section is alluring, nevertheless, both as a magnet for another round for strolling or just for sitting, but I also think an esplanade of real trees often achieves the same effect.
In the hot and often humid New York summertime, any opportunity to sit and rest under a canopy is most welcome. As the work is scheduled to stay up through January 10, 2016, we'll just have to see what happens with Fata Morgana in the city's famous autumn and through the holiday season with less leafy trees.
The site of Madison Square Park is proximate to several attractions, many of which can be observed from the park. First and foremost is the Flatiron Building just to the park's south, as well as the Empire State Building to the north. Many famous paths in the city emanate from this spot. Concurrently, all roads lead here.
Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from Saturday, June 6, 2015.