A new photo exhibit has turned a lifeless, gray corrugated barrier under the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge into an outdoor art installation.
Six color photographs titled “When it opens like this, up is not over,” by sculptor and photographer Rena Leinberger, were unveiled to the public on a walkway under the bridge, where Queens Plaza meets Vernon Boulevard, in Long Island City on Friday morning.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), along with representatives of the Department of Transportation; Brooklyn’s International Studio and Cultural Program, a nonprofit involved in the project; and Leinberger were on hand for the opening.
The public art is part of the DOT’s “pARTners” program, which twice a year produces a list of priority spaces the department would like to use for urban art.
Leinberger, who is based in Kingston, NY and Brooklyn, submitted a proposal last year through ISCP, where she was a resident artist. Her proposal was accepted and she was awarded a grant of $5,000.
Her photographs were taken on the other side of the fence, a restricted area to the public, where she captured the bottom of the bridge and the prominent Manhattan skyline. She cut up emergency blankets and latex gloves and dropped the pieces in front of the camera as the shots were being taken.
Leinberger said she was fascinated with the space because even though Manhattan is viewable from the walkway, the way the fence limits access makes Manhattan seem tantalizingly far away.
“Paradoxically the fence, while it blocks off access ... provokes more interest in the view you can’t have access to,” she explained. “These photographs provide a window of access to that viewpoint.”
Leinberger said the material she dropped in front of the camera add to the sense of a diminished view. “By dropping these other materials in front of the photographs, you can’t still fully access that view,” she said. “It provides this other sort of romanticized, dreamlike view.”
The director of the DOT’s Urban Art Program, Emily Colasacco, said the site was made a priority because of the residential area surrounding it and the number of pedestrians who pass here.
“The Queens Borough Commissioner Maura McCarthy was very adamant about getting this site enhanced and beautified since it’s right in between two residential communities and a lot of people use this space for cycling and walking,” she said. “We wanted to enhance this dull, gray fence that they go by every day.”
After viewing the photographs, Colasacco praised the work, calling it “stunning.”
“I think it’s a very thoughtful project. It invites the public into a private space which is really unique,” she said.
Van Bramer, who is the chairman of the City Council’s Cultural Affairs Committee, gave the work his thumbs up.
“I think it’s terrific,” he said. “I like the grittiness of it, the industrial nature of it.”
“It has transformed this plain metal fence into an outdoor public gallery that is free,” he added.
The photographs will be on display until Oct. 31. There are as yet no plans to install another art piece in the same location, according to the DOT, though interested artists have until March 9 to submit a proposal for the site or any other in the city, and can visit nyc.gov/urbanart for more details.