The COVID-19 pandemic thwarted efforts to bring a bold public art project to Lewes Canalfront Park last spring, but the city’s public art committee is moving forward undeterred with another display for this spring and summer.
The group has selected a piece by Pittsburgh-based artist Rachel Mica Weiss. Unbounded is a large-scale, site-specific and site-responsive architectural intervention, utilizing hand-chiseled obsidian rock and hand-dyed rope to create bound yet flowing textile surfaces.
“This series highlights the forces shaping us, while simultaneously asking the viewer to question the human impact on the landscape and reconsider the stability of boundaries – whether physical, architectural or self-created,” Weiss wrote on her website. “The work asks viewers to feel a sense of vulnerability when in conversation with the over 6,000 pounds of obsidian that comprises each of these seemingly gravitationally impossible formations.”
Weiss has previously installed her Unbounded work in Brooklyn and Pittsburgh. Public art committee Chair Cliff Diver said the temporary project will be on display near the Lightship Overfalls from mid-April through Labor Day. The committee identified Weiss – and other potential artists – through consultant Karin Bravin. Using a selection of art projects and artists provided by Bravin, the committee engaged in a rich discussion regarding what piece was most appropriate for Canalfront Park. Other factors included cost, size and the complexity of installation for a temporary project.
Committee member Barry Dunkin said Weiss’ piece does not offer the immediate impact that the Watertower project by artist Tom Fruin would have offered had it come to Lewes last spring, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an appropriate and worthy selection for Canalfront Park.
“It’s very in keeping with the purpose of the park, which is to bring people to the waterfront and to celebrate the maritime history of Lewes,” he said.
Diver agreed, saying Weiss’ piece requires viewers to contemplate what they’re seeing.
“This is a lot deeper of a piece that you can meditate with, and think about and share your experience,” he said. “The people of Lewes can come back to it day in and day out, and they might really enjoy the way the environment will play on it from a foggy day to a rainy day to a bright and sunny day. It will be very diverse in what it gives off.”
When describing the piece on her website, Weiss said each place Unbounded has been installed has had a strong connection with the surrounding environment.
“Unbounded echoes the industrial, seafaring history of its immediate site [Brooklyn], and Unbounded II taps into the history of coke mines and steel industry of its surrounding site [Pittsburgh],” Weiss wrote on her website. “Both works harmonize with the architecture surrounding them, while their precariously tumbling constituent parts simultaneously deconstruct those walls, and the walls inherent to the sculptures' own tenuously tied boulders.”
The estimated cost of the project will be $5,000 to $7,000. The committee has a nominal budget, so the cost to rent Weiss’ piece will be privately funded. City funds allocated to the committee will be used for transportation of the project and a small per diem for the artist while she sets it up in the park. Tax-deductible donations may be made to the city to cover some expenses. Anyone wishing to donate may contact Diver at 302-228-1830.
This year’s temporary project is the latest in an effort to expand public art in Lewes. After the Watertower project was canceled in the spring, the public art committee moved forward with a mural on the side of a Lewes Board of Public Works building facing the Lewes-to-Georgetown Trail. After an open call to artists to submit ideas for the wall, the committee used public input to aid in selecting a design. Philadelphia-based artist Kyle Confehr worked through Labor Day weekend to complete an energetic black-and-white piece that pops off the wall.
Diver said many of the pieces the committee considered for this spring were more than worthy, but the city could only afford one at this time. His goal is to continue to bring temporary public art projects to Lewes in the future to spark discussion and ultimately educate residents about art.