by Kathleen Reckling, Deputy Director of Public Programs, ArtsWestchester
When COVID-19 landed in North America, artist Cheryl Wing-Zi Wong was away from her New York home, balancing a residency in Calgary, Canada with overseeing the complex fabrication of her monumental sculpture, Current. There was still pasta on the shelves of supermarkets in Canada, but the Trader Joe’s near her Manhattan apartment was already out of any macaroni that wasn’t made from lentils. She boarded the last plane that was allowed to fly into the United States, and prepared to hunker down with family. While her Canada residency was on pause, Wong was still hard at work realizing Current.
The clean, elegant geometry of Current, a 25-foot telescoping sculpture for the Westchester Landing of the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge’s shared use path, evokes a variety of familiar images. A ripple in the water. A sound wave. A Microsoft Windows screensaver from the 1990s. The works of Sol LeWitt. The rising and falling lines of the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge itself. Deceptively simple in form, the site-responsive artwork is a multi-layered monument to the passage of time.
Wong is an artist who works at the intersection of art and architecture, using interactive sculptures, installations and performances to explore how the spaces we build and occupy influence our relationships with one another. Her work is grounded in the reality that architecture is functional, but shapes social interactions – race, gender and politics all play out in the places we make. Current builds on her creative practice. The sculpture references the triumphs of the bridge’s design and engineering, while offering an engaging portal through which viewers can experience the dynamic Hudson Valley landscape.
Like New York State’s motto, “ever upward,” the sculpture’s graduated triangular arches march to the horizon, symbolically pointing to what’s to come. The piece poetically emerges from the past, its foundation formed from remnant steel that comes from the decommissioned Tappan Zee Bridge. Meanwhile, the echoing triangles are like ghostly traces of the tall-mast ships that once traveled along the river. The sculpture includes programmed, integrated LED lighting. Motion sensors near the sculpture will activate light animations and, as darkness rises, hourly “chimes” of light will mark the passage from day to night.
The strength of Current is that it is at once familiar, yet ever-changing. Current is fundamentally about taking time to experience the present. The sculpture’s viewers in the here-and-now play an active role in shaping how others experience the work. The changing times of day, weather and seasons, in addition to fluctuations in bike and pedestrian traffic, will offer a new experience of the work. These changes will activate light animations or change the hues, refracted in dichroic glass fins that sit at each triangle’s apex. The work is a reminder that no matter how many times one may visit a place, each experience of that landscape is actually unique. Like the Hudson River, and the people and vehicles passing over it, Current is ever moving, ever flowing.
A version of this article first appeared in the June issue of ArtsNews, ArtsWestchester’s monthly publication. ArtsNews is distributed throughout Westchester County. A digital copy is also available at artsw.org/artsnews.