As President Joe Biden flew overhead in Marine One June 9, artist Kate Dodd was putting the finishing touches on “Efflorescence,” the latest art piece to grace the public space of Lewes.
It took the New Jersey-based artist a little over a day to unload 14 stalk-like sculptures from a rented U-Haul and erect them in a circular pattern near Blockhouse Pond in an underutilized part of George H.P. Smith Park, where they are expected to remain through the end of September or early October.
Dodd said she was excited to bring “Efflorescence” to Lewes because the city is eager and enthusiastic about promoting public art.
“Putting something in a public space creates a conversation between people,” she said. “And the fact that there’s a conversation is really important. It’s a topic that’s not as red hot as some others happening right now in the public sphere, so this is a way to talk to people who see things differently than you.”
“Efflorescence” was commissioned in 2020 to be placed in an alleyway in Summit, N.J. Unlike Lewes, the sculptures were erected in a line along an existing garden bed.
“The idea was to take an unfriendly space and make it more friendly,” she said.
She said it was Lewes Public Art Committee Chair Cliff Diver who offered the idea of placing the stalks in a circle down here. Dodd loved it.
“It turned out great,” she said. “It’s so much fun to see it in a completely different configuration.”
It’s immediately attracting people of all ages, from toddlers glued to the colors to adults curious to figure out what those things are.
The piece comprises about 3,000 water bottles Dodd personally collected. They’re wrapped in colorful mesh materials and attached to poles, which are anchored into the ground.
Dodd is very environmentally sensitive; in many pieces, she incorporates repurposed materials such as plastic bottles or old books that would otherwise find their way to landfills. Part of the message she wishes to convey through her art is to promote less reliance on disposable and single-use materials in everyday life.
Dodd attended Pratt Institute and Columbia University, and has been a professional artist for 30 years. She’s always worked in an outdoor setting; her first public commissions came in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when she created large-scale works for five New Jersey Transit stations.
When it was nearly time to remove “Efflorescence” from Summit, N.J., Dodd contacted Gallerist curator Karin Bravin about other potential locations for the sculpture. Bravin, who has been working as a consultant with the Lewes Public Art Committee for a few years, connected Dodd with Cliff Diver.
Diver quickly navigated the city’s parks and recreation commission and mayor and city council for necessary approvals to ensure “Efflorescence” could stand in Lewes this summer.