This summer, Newtown Barge Park will welcome a new art installation, Peace Gorilla, by Noa Bornstein, made possible by the NYC Parks’ Art in the Parks Program.
Peace Gorilla was completed in 2010 and was most recently featured (for almost two years) at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza on 47th Street, just across the street from the United Nations.
The 800 pound sculpture is made from sisal fiber and burlap in plaster and structolite over wire mesh, copper tubing, and plumbing pipe. Notably, the base of Peace Gorilla features the word “friends” in ninety different languages. Inferable by the name, Bornstein was excited to cultivate a piece that promotes peace, inclusivity, and togetherness. She searched far and wide for accurate translations of the word “friends,” including visits to different consulates, speaking with diplomats, subway folk, and Greenpoint individuals. She’s also included an audio guide that’s attached to a tactile QR code to make the piece available to the visually impaired.
With her long arm outstretched, you might feel inclined to touch the sculpture, and if so, you’re in luck! Bornstein embraces the interaction with Peace Gorilla. In fact, she hopes people come by to high-five Peace!
The piece evolved on its own terms, and in a way, Bornstein says she (Peace) created herself. Though Bornstein never intended the arm to reach out the way it does, she followed the shape as she went, and as the arm kept extending and getting longer, she followed suit.
This style of process is in keeping with Bornstein’s other work. A self-proclaimed humanist, Bornstein says that even in her paintings and drawings, she prioritizes getting a sense for the person (or animal) in front of her, and tries to evoke empathy in the art. Working from life, she hones in on the connection she gets from that person and what they’re experiencing or expressing at that time, alluding her art to the human experience.
Underlying my art is the hope or belief in human beings’ potential for intelligence and compassion, and the tension between these and other human propensities.Noa Bornstein
So, why a gorilla? Bornstein has always been drawn to gorillas due to their closeness with our species. In the process of creating the sculpture and thereafter, she’s explored her understanding of these creatures through different mediums, including a performance piece she revived last July as a tribute to her friend Eddie Glickman. Apes, a story in which a chimp grows into a gorilla, was initially performed when the pair were in their twenties, and has garnered new meaning for Bornstein now.
Bornstein has been based in Greenpoint for 31 years where she lives with her husband, Eric Batchelor, both of whom work out of the GMDC (Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center). Each part of Peace Gorilla came from and was made in Greenpoint, crediting OSO Industries for making the base and Bedi Makky Art Foundry for doing the casting, and Batchelor’s woodshed, Wellstone NYC Custom Woodworking, for creating the inside of the base, which keeps Peace stable. The words for “friend” were done by Visual Mechanics, laser printing and design.
She’s drumming up ideas for the opening ceremony (and welcomes all thoughts!) but envisions a celebration of camaraderie, hopefully with music from different cultures and speakers from different backgrounds and religions, coming together in the name of Peace. Stay tuned!