Tag Archives: sculpture

Community expresses mixed feelings on city-commissioned sculpture in LIC

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But for one community in Long Island City, a bright pink statue that would stand more than 8 feet tall just might not fit their vision of beauty.

At the recent Community Board 2 meeting, the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs presented the newest project for the Percent for Art program that is being commissioned for Jackson Avenue and 43rd Avenue.

Since 1982, the city’s Percent for Art law has required that one percent of the budget for eligible city-funded construction projects be spent on public artwork.

For this commission, a panel convened by the agency selected Brooklyn-artist Ohad Meromi and at the Dec. 4 board meeting, the community got a preview of what is being proposed for the Long Island City site.

Meromi’s proposed sculpture is an 8.5-foot-tall, bright pink piece called “The Sunbather” which is shaped as a human figure. About $515,000 of city tax dollars will go toward the construction of the piece, made of bronze.

Although Meromi said he is “excited for the opportunity” to sculpt the piece, community board members and residents at the meeting brought up issues such as the community at large not having had the opportunity to give their input on the sculpture earlier and also the color just being a little too much.

“I personally do like the art,” said Moitri Chowdhury Savard, a community board member. “But I think the bright pink color and the size of it has been brought up by many residents of the community as too much for the area. I think it might be a little too much for a lot of the residents there.”

Resident Christian Amez, also a member of the organization Hunters Point Parks Conservancy, said he also wished the community could have been more well-represented earlier in the process. They also would have liked it if a local artist could have been chosen.

According to Sarah Reisman, director for Percent for Art, the agency presented a rough draft of a rendering to the community board’s land use committee first, and members of the board were invited.

Reisman also added that about 40 artists, including local Long Island City artists, were presented to a panel that later picked finalists. After finalists presented proposals, Meromi, who has presented pieces at the SculptureCenter and MoMA PS1, was chosen.

The sculpture’s size and color are still not finalized, but a permanent piece by Meromi is expected to be located at the site.

“I really thought the site could use color,” Meromi said about the color selection of the sculpture. “I think pink is bold and the site could use something bold.”

Now the agency will take the comments from residents and the community board comments and go back to the renderings of the sculpture. Then, the agency will present a conceptual design to the public design commission at City Hall.

“We want to know what you think, take it to consideration and take it to the design commission,” Reisman said. “We’re here to listen.”


New accusations versus LIC art fraudster

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Richard Etts

The owner of a Queens foundry, who pleaded guilty early this year to selling a counterfeit sculpture worth $11 million, is allegedly behind another scam, according to a former New York City artist.

Brian Ramnarine, owner of the Empire Bronze Art Foundry in Long Island City, was arrested in 2012 for attempting to sell a sculpture advertised as genuine work by American artist Jasper Johns. In January, he pleaded guilty to three counts of wire fraud. He also pleaded guilty to falsely representing works from artists Robert Indiana and Saint Clair Cermin while he was out on bail.

Now, artist Richard Etts, a former New York City sculptor who has been living in California for the past 30 years, alleges one of his early pieces has met the same fate.

Etts was contacted by an art collector from Dallas, Texas, requesting authentication on a bronze Etts hand lamp, which the collector had purchased at an estate sale, the artist said. The artist was confused by the call because he says he never made any body sculptures out of bronze. All were made of plaster.

etts 101 hand desk lamp-003

Richard Etts’ original plaster sculpture

“Instead of denying that I made it, I requested photographs of stamps, signatures and dates,” Etts said. “And I was shocked to find that someone had forged my signature and put a different year on it and had the nerve to put their own stamp on it.”

In the photos he received, the sculpture is stamped with “Roman Bronze Works Inc.,” a company Ramnarine worked for before opening up his own foundry.

However at this point there is no direct evidence linking Ramnarine to the hand lamp.

Also, even though the original plaster sculpture was completed in 1972, the date 1983 also appears on the piece.

“What he has done is criminal and I’m getting no compensation for it and I want to prosecute if I can find the right person to handle this,” Etts said. “I want some money out of it and I want him to stop doing this.”

Etts also said he was thrown off by his large signature on the side of the piece.

“I would never deface my artwork with making my name so prominent on a piece of art,” Etts said. “He has made an effort of plagiarizing my signature.”

According to the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York’s office, Etts must contact the Victims Witness Line to further investigate this incident.

Ramnarine’s attorney, Troy Smith, declined to comment.

Ramnarine’s sentencing on the earlier case has been adjourned until Sept. 19.



Woman to give free manicures at Socrates Sculpture Park

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Mikel Durlam

Breanne Trammell is taking her revamped 1968 compact trailer back out on the road to help polish the lives of local western Queens moms in need of a well-deserved pampering.

Last year, Trammell, a Wassaic, N.Y. resident, professional manicurist and core member of the nonprofit The Wassaic Project, embarked on a cross-country road trip she called Nails Across America.

During the trip she visited 20 different states as part of her experimental art project known as “Nails in the Key of Life,” where she uses manicures as the way to exchange ideas, start conversations and collect people’s stories. During her road trip, she would give women, men and children free manicures inside a 1968 Shasta compact trailer she transformed into a mobile nail salon.

                                   Photo by Mikel Durlam

Each person who sported one of Trammell’s manicures would receive a signed and numbered letter-pressed certificate to celebrate his or her involvement in the project.

“The idea is to reach out to as many kinds of people, from all walks of life, and use it as a way to honor them and their experiences, and share their experiences and stories,” Trammell said. “Manicures are usually expensive. It’s been my intention from the very beginning, this is totally accessible for anyone.”

Now, months after returning from her trip, Trammell will take the trailer back out and make a trip to Long Island City’s Socrates Sculpture Park for its spring/summer season opening on Mother’s Day on May 11.

During the event, which will feature the opening of three brand new exhibitions, Trammell will be giving free manicures by the park’s new 50-foot-long, 18-foot-high “Queen Mother of Reality” sculpture by Polish artist Pawel Althamer.

Although the manicures will be available on a first-come, first-served basis, most of the appointments will be filled by mothers from the nearby NYCHA housing development Astoria Houses.

                        Photo by Chuka Chukuma

“We are making sure the people that deserve it are getting it,” said Elissa Goldstone, exhibition program manager at Socrates Sculpture Park. “We are giving women a moment to be praised and to be focused on.”

While the mothers get pampered by Trammell, their children will also be able to take part in workshops conducted by the grass-roots nonprofit Minor Miracles Foundation.

Goldstone said Trammell’s trailer and free manicures pair nicely with the sculpture that was dedicated to Queen Mother Dr. Delois Blakely, who has served as Community Mayor of Harlem since being sworn in by former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in 1995.

Visitors will be allowed to enter the sculpture and get a view of the Manhattan skyline, and, later, get a tour of Trammell’s trailer.

“Breanne’s trailer has similar reclaimed, handmade, but also sacred and secured interior in this larger setting,” Goldstone said. “It’s that privateness that brings out these intimate moments.”

During that weekend, Socrates Sculpture Park will also debut the LIC Art Bus which will offer free weekend door-to-door service from noon to 6 p.m. between Socrates, SculptureCenter, The Noguchi Museum and MoMA PS1.



LIC-based sculptor Karen Dimit carves truth behind the beauty

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Studio photos courtesy of Orestes Gonzalez/Sculpture photos courtesy of Karen Dimit

Feeling like she was never good at art, Karen Dimit started her career as an opera singer. Yet when the perfect stone sang to her, she decided to begin chiseling her outlook on the dualities of life.

“I physically felt something hit me in the gut and say ‘Karen, you’ve got to do something with me,’” she said. “I’d beg my father to bring home some stones that I found and put them in the garden. So I think I’ve always had a relationship to it and it’s the stones that called me back. Eventually it just took over.” After a visit to a sculpture supply store, this California native began her move into the artistic world. She went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and found that the African sculptures drew her into a domain of both art and purpose.

“They were done for a function in society, not just as a decoration, but they had a force in the society that they were used for,” she said. “They weren’t really necessarily polished or finished, they could be very rough, but they had this power that was imbued in them.”

Working on mosaics of the tragic masks of Pompeii, Dimit’s first sculpture took its form after September 11, 2001 and featured a mask depicting what she believed to be the reflection of how everyone was feeling.

“It was so perfect for the energy, getting out the frustration, fear and anger pounding into a stone,” she said.
After that, she was hooked.

Moving to a studio in Long Island City five years ago, Dimit began a series of pieces mixing different materials including stones, minerals, metals and mosaics. The main theme behind her works focuses on the dualities in the human condition, dealing with human strengths and weakness.

The “Subway Goddess Pageant” was a project in which Dimit created replicas of ancient powerful female figures in history through mosaics symbolizing the different aspects of the feminine.

“At a certain point in my life I realized that I thought of myself as a second-class citizen and I behaved that way,” she said. “I wanted to deal with my journey in trying to find my inner power from that and deal with the patriarchal religion and upbringing that I had.”

One of her pageant beauties, “Miss Cucuteni 2011” depicts on one half of the figure the colorful beauty of Mother Nature, yet on the other half, the colorful stones are replaced by coal and barbed wire showing the destruction of suppression and exploitation.

Pieces take between two weeks to one year to complete and each depicts life in the eyes of this sculptor and mosaic artist, who does not only mold the materials but works together with them to bring their inner beauty out.

“What’s most fun is that I’m so seduced by them. I let the stone tell me where it needs to go,” she said. “It takes a lot of time to find just the right thing, but then all of a sudden it starts working.”