|Lagoon proves harsh critic of artistic symbolism
By Doug O'Harra, Daily News reporter
Shaped vaguely like half of a light bulb, the great
plastic dome launched from the dock at Westchester Lagoon with a wobble. As it keeled to
one side, it threatened to dump its symbolic cargo: a miniature marine mammal, seven
plastic riflemen and a tall figure suggestive of Pocahontas.
This is the actual visualization of subsistence, declared
artist Jim Dault, snatching the contraption just before it capsized. But its
tentative. Its very tentative. Indeed. On its second
voyage, the sculpture flipped, allowing the visualization of traditional marine prey to
sink to the mucky bottom.
OH we lost the walrus, Dault cried. They
struck one, but they did not land it.
In the annual summer celebration of floatable art, the water in the
lagoon near the start of the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail became a wind-whipped gallery of
foam-aided inspiration early Sunday afternoon, attracting a couple dozen artists along
with scores of children and their parents. Their creations bobbed on the breeze as sea
gulls cried overhead.
The artists, professional and amateur, launched works that ranged from political to
whimsical: water bugs and lily pads, a hand, a pensive balloon face, a swamped easel,
large wooden structures and small bowls.
The works by children (and some by their parents) ranged from simple
boats to armored sailing ships to abstract rafts bristling with pipe cleaners, plastic
flowers and toy cowboys.
The event, conjured up about four years ago by a group of downtown
gallery artists, has a simple goofy aim.
We pull up there, and we stick things in the water and we hope
they float, said Julie Decker, of the International Gallery of Contemporary Art and
one of the events organizers. The goal is do something
different, she added. Its kind of a challenge to artists to go outside
of the gallery and figure out a way to make art float. Its a technical and creative
A great unwieldy water strider made of wool and nylon stockings by Mary
Hertert bobbed next to lily pads and smaller, buglike floats by Linda Robinson. (I
dont know the species, but theyre definitely Alaskan bugs,Robinson
Don Mohr. another organizer, had launched several
crutches standing upright a concept that intrigues him. Its easy to
make stuff float flat in the water, he said. "The trick is to make stuff stand
straight up. ... Every year, I get pretty close.
In a makeshift rowboat carved from a foam block,
artist Don Ricker towed out a wooden frame on floats that explored the idea of
"sustainability" with a torn sheet and some sort of suspended globe.
Dault. working the dock and launching childrens creations with
great delight, heaved out his own ball. armored with small stones. A stone
ball. he said. Its all about displacement.
The salmon figure attached to yellow plastic oil bottles may have made
the most overt political statement Those are the two things that keep this state
afloat: oil and salmon. Dault quipped. That should be next to the subsistence
But the stuff produced by kids was driven solely by spontaneous fun.
Once they see the artists work out there. then they get
inspired to make their own, said artist Shala Dobson, helping kids duct tape and
wire together the pieces. "They make amazing stuff.
Children crowded picnic tables bulging with supplies: Styrofoam squares
and sandwich boxes, pipe cleaners, little foam stars and triangles and squares. balloons,
plastic figures. sparkling doodads and strange knickknacks. Sometimes the parents became
just as intent, Dobson said.
Aman LaChaPelle, 5, directed his father Francis on an elaborate vessel
equipped with Styrofoam coffeecup floats and a large plastic sail.
The sail was already working because (the wind) blew it off of there. the boy
Brothers Hank and Slade Manning worked side by side with square foam
pieces. loading them with pipe cleaners and little figures. Hank, 8. built an arch with a
chopstick and pipe cleaners and then planted a tiny clothespinl with a smiling face in the
middle. After repairing a hole in the hull with blue duct tape, he wrote S.S.
Hank on every surtaee. He was ready to launch.
Theyre very excited, said the boys mother,
Dana. He has a lot of confidence, so he named the boat after himself.
Shannon Croft. 3, led her father Eric to the end of the dock with a
foam box faced by translucent plastic windows. A red heart was suspended in the
middle. it floated well. then scooted downwind fast.Croft, an Anchorage Legislator, said
he made the contraption under his daughters close supervision with a lot of
directions. Its like a big TV set, Croft said
as his daughters artistic vlsion sailed out into a sea of bobbing sculptures and
rafts. "Heart Art is what her mother named it. It's the heart of TV".