Harlem Roots: Fire Watchtower Fence, 2016
Handmade paper, sprouts, beeswax, wood, wire
May 3, 2016 – May 31, 2016
“Harlem Roots: Fire Watchtower Fence” is a site-specific installation proposed for a section of chain-link construction fence that surrounds the site of the Fire Watchtower (currently offsite for renovations) on the acropolis of Marcus Garvey Park. Michele Brody utilizes a technique called Water Marking, the practice of combining handmade paper with sprouts grown hydroponically, then encased in wax to create a waterproofed paper relief sculpture. The artist embosses an image of the surrounding landscape in the paper sculpture that is visible as various shades of translucent layers when lit from behind. Engaging the fence as both a surface and window into the “soul” of Marcus Garvey Park, she layers an historic image of the Fire Watchtower in front of the location where it stood before being taken down for renovations. Spanning out from the tower image will be layered images of paper and roots in the form of the surrounding brownstone architecture. When illuminated by the sun the paper sculpture evokes a ghost-like image of the landscape intertwined with natural elements. From afar the installation appears to look like a rolling landscape layered over the background of the park. When viewed up close a richly layered horticultural wonder is revealed enlightened by the patterned shadows of the fence and ghost-like impressions of the surrounding environment. Michele communicates the paradoxical relationship between Nature and the constructed environment. “Harlem Roots: Fire Watchtower Fence” focuses on freezing the current state of Harlem through photography within the handmade paper, while simultaneously commenting on the potential of its future and reconnecting to its past.
The success of Michele Brody’s work thrives on the interaction with new communities and environments. Since receiving her BA from Sarah Lawrence College in 1989 and her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1994, she has utilized a strong background in the liberal and fiber arts to create site-specific, mixed-media installations, and works of public art generated by the history, culture, environment, nature and architecture of a wide range of venues. While living and working in France, Costa Rica, California, the Midwest, Germany, Taiwan and her home of New York City. Brody’s art career has developed into a process of working in collaboration with each new community towards developing an interpretation of the sense of a place as an outsider looking in.
Michele Brody has had one person shows at the Atelier-galeried’Art Contemporain: Arras, France; Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporaneo: San Jose, Costa Rica; Dina4 Projekte: Munich, Germany; Temple Judea Museum: Elkins Park, PA; as well as chashama, Littlejohn Contemporary, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Casa Frela Gallery, Hudson Guild Gallery II, and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in New York City. Michele has been the recipient of a grant or residency every year since 1995 from such institutions as the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Pollock/Krasner Foundation, New York Foundation for the Arts, and New York State Council on the Arts. Her artist residency experience includes Skowhegan, the Headlands Center for the Arts, Ox-Bow, Emmanuel College and the Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation. In 2006 she completed two permanent works of public art in The Bronx for the MTA and the Department of Education’s Public Art for Public Schools program. In 2011 she was awarded the Best 3-D Entry at the international Art Prize competition in Grand Rapids, MI by juror Glenn Harper of Sculpture Magazine for her installation “Nature Preserve” at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Art. Michele Brody currently resides and works in The Bronx where she is currently exhibiting her community-based art project “Reflections in Tea” at the Bronx Museum of the Arts at 1040 Grand Concourse.