Peace Gorilla Sculpture Welcomes All, including the Blind and Visually Impaired

“Public art is for everyone,” says artist Noa Bornstein, who recently  attached a tactile QR code linked to an audio recording on the base of her  bronze sculpture on display in the historic UN gateway, Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, through August. “Many venues  discourage visitors from touching objects of art, but Peace Gorilla welcomes human touch.” 

The gorilla’s outstretched arm elicits “high-fives” from  park visitors while kids delight in climbing  on her  body. The word “Friend” is cast in 90 languages on the concrete base, and Bornstein is always exploring  ways to engage the public through playful interaction. 

To make the popular sculpture user-friendly to the blind and visually impaired, Bornstein consulted with disability specialists. Then during a week of Earth Day celebrations, three visually impaired musicians from the Lions Club LB Band, escorted by Joy Bieder, a Certified Orientation and Mobility specialist, assembled on a bench next to Peace Gorilla  and after a spirited drum session, held  their cell phones to the  tactile QR code and listened to Bornstein’s recorded  description.  Julie Spodnick, a Certified Vision Rehab Teacher assisted. She and  Joy Bieder  also work for VISIONS/Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired. 

Lions Club LB Band: Musicans Robert Weeks, Alex Barrera, Braulio Thorne

What’s next? A label in Braille and English will be mounted next to the  tactile QR code, which was  produced in brass by Visual Mechanics, a neighbor of Bornstein’s studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn  

The tactile QR code was suggested by Nitza Danieli, who works as a contract artist educator with the visually impaired at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Bornstein also consulted with Maia Scott, a blind artist and teacher in San Francisco,  and actress Dawn Del Orbe, who records audio guides for museums. The “look but don’t touch” rule is giving way to more inclusive approaches. Some exhibits include “beacons ” that emit pleasant natural sounds to guide the  blind to a location. 

Also on display through August are three sculptures of larger-than-life  human figures by Jim Rennert curated by Sherrill Kazan, president of Friends of Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, in collaboration with NYC Parks Arts & Antiquities. 

“Public art is  a universal language and integral to the city’s renewal. Both exhibits invite public interaction,” says Kazan. “It’s fitting that Peace Gorilla is located in this hub of diversity, a park named after Nobel Peace Laureate Dag Hammarskjold,  the second Secretary General of the United Nations.” 

Dag Hammarskjold Plaza is located on East 47th Street between UN Plaza (1st Ave.) and 2nd Ave, Manhattan. Public art exhibitions are organized through NYC Art in the Parks.

(CLICK ON THIS LINK): Photos and Video – Peace Gorilla Says (noabornstein.com)

ARTIST’S DESCRIPTION OF PEACE GORILLA

Sculpture: Bronze, 45” h x 48” x 48”, 400 lbs

Base: Concrete, 8” h x 48” x 48”, 400 lbs

On the top of the base, “Friend” in the six official languages of the United Nations appears under the title “Peace Gorilla”followed by the subtitle: “Shalom, Salaam, Tomodachi” (“Hello, Peace, Friend,” in Hebrew, Arabic, and Japanese). These are the words that Bornstein, a perpetual language student, seemed to hear as the gorilla “reached out her arm” during the process of creation. 

The word “Friend” in 90 languages is set into the four sides and top of the base  from templates made by Visual Mechanics. The concrete base was created by Oso Industries with assistance from Wellstone NYC Custom Woodworking—all neighbors of Bornstein in the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center (GMDC). The original gorilla was made of sisal fiber and burlap in structolite and plaster over wire mesh and metal. The bronze casting was produced at Bedi-Makky Art Foundry in Greenpoint Brooklyn, using the traditional French sand-casting method.

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High Fives for Peace Gorilla

Friend in 90 Languages

Since last November 2020, when Noa Bornstein installed her life-size Peace Gorilla in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, park visitors have responded to the ape’s outstretched arm with a friendly “high five.” The sculpture is mounted on a low concrete base inscribed with the word for friend in 90 languages—beginning with the six official languages of the UN. “The gorilla extended her arm to me as I was making her,” Bornstein notes. I was able to interpret the gesture: ‘Shalom, Salaam, Tomodachi—Hello, Peace, Friend,’ in Hebrew, Arabic, and Japanese.”

Fitting Location 

A perfect size for kids, they can’t resist climbing on the gorilla’s back and giving her a hug.

“Dag Hammarskjold Plaza is a fitting location for Peace Gorilla, given the park’s historic role at UN Gateway and its namesake, Dag  Hammarskjold, who was posthumously awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The  gorilla also reminds us of our commitment to the UN Goals for Sustainable Development, which includes caring for our environment and endangered species,” noted FDHP President Sherrill Kazan. 

Cast in bronze, the sculpture will be on display through August 2021. Peace Gorilla is one of the many public art projects exhibited under the Arts in the Parks program of NYC Parks Department.  Funding was made possible in part by the Puffin Foundation.

Finding a Connection 

Based in Brooklyn, Noa Bornstein created the original piece out of sisal fiber and burlap in structolite and plaster over an armature of wire mesh and plumbing sections. It was cast in bronze this year at Bedi-Makky Art Foundry in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Bornstein’s previous public projects include Live Well, a small bronze installed in 2000 in TriBeCa Park, followed by touring exhibits in several other states. Her more recent public sculptures are of other fellow creatures who look for a connection with us, Praying Mantis Seeks Friends and Pig Seeks Friends, both temporary installations through NYC Parks and City Parks Foundation in 2017 and 2018.

Other public works include large-scale murals: Magritte in Los Angeles, and Striving Together, Mural at the Harlem Rehabilitation Center. Bornstein has exhibited at numerous galleries and her work has been featured in Artnews, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and Le Soir, in Brussels. 

For over 50 years, NYC Parks Art in the Parks program has brought contemporary public artworks to the city’s parks, making New York City one of the world’s largest open-air galleries. Since 1967, NYC Parks has collaborated with arts organizations and artists to produce over 2,000 public artworks by 1,300 notable and emerging artists in over 200 parks.                                                                                                                  

For additional/interactive content please visit (click on link): PEACE GORILLA  

Primary website: www.noabornstein.com  Instagram: @noabornstein 

Frog Prince and Wood Fairy Sculpture by Ailene Fields

Ailene Fields is an American sculptor who works in stone, bronze and acrylic. Themes in her work are evocative of dreams and magic, calling forth the qualities that make us human. Her sculptures often feature animals, mythological figures and architectural elements.

FROG PRINCE

Starting in late 2019 and running through summer 2020, in conjunction with Six Summit Gallery, Fields is exhibiting three public art installations of fantastical representational works at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, Bella Abzug Park at Hudson Yards and Port Authority Bus Terminal. The two pieces in Hammarskjold Plaza are titled Frog Prince and Wood Fairy

Born Eileen Rubin in 1948 in Brooklyn, New York, she graduated with a degree in English and Greek mythology from Lehman College in 1973. A self-taught potter, she studied the human figure with Bruno Lucchesi at The New School for Social Research in 1980. Lucchesi sent her to Sculpture Center, New York City to further her practical education as a sculptor.

Fields’ first one-person exhibition was in 1987 at the Lavaggi Gallery in New York City. Since then, her work has been continually exhibited in American art galleries, and she has been represented at over 25 group exhibitions in the U.S. Solo museum exhibitions include the Bergen Museum of Art & Science, Paramus, New Jersey, and The Appleton Museum of Art, Ocala, Florida. She has taught stone carving at Sculpture Center and The Educational Alliance in NYC and is currently teaching at The Compleat Sculptor in New York City, one of the largest sculpture suppliers in the world, which she co-owns with her husband, Marc Fields.

“ONCE UPON A TIME” WOOD FAIRY

Sculptures: “Beyond the Edge”

hammond-sculpture-enhancedHamptons-based artist Phyllis Hammond has created five new sculptures for Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, entitled Tempo, Alien, Flying, Gateway, and Sign of Freedom. Exhibited together under the title Beyond the Edge, the steel and aluminum sculptures feature narrow stem-like bases topped by whimsical, kinetic elements that rotate in the wind. Hammond uses an improvisational method to create her colorful, large-scale sculptures. The metal cutouts are based on playful, looping doodles on paper that she scans and modifies using a computer program. Once the drawings have been refined digitally, the designs are cut from sheets of metal using a water jet machine. After the metal shapes are hammered, bent and welded into curved shapes, they are powder-coated with brightly colored paint.

Sculpture: Dialogue for Peace by Mazeredo

sculpture dove

Dove Sculpture

Mazeredo is a Brazilian artist from Rio de Janeiro whose works have been displayed in Brazil, Europe and major US cities. Recently, she was honoured in Paris, where her Dialogue exhibit was on display at the festival Le Lavage Du Madeleine. When Pope Francis visited Rio in 2013, he personally blessed her St. Francis and White Dove sculpture, which then went on public display at Lido Square in Copacabana. She started her Dialogue for Peace sculpture series in 2013 to generate awareness that dialogue between cultures through art plays a crucial role in fostering peace and understanding. The white sculpture represents the dove of peace. The two red and green sculptures  symbolize a butterfly (freedom) and two lips (dialogue). Notice how the pieces of white sculpture interlock and connect.