Holy water towers, Batman! These grandiose structures, scattered throughout our borough, may be large in scale, but Williamsburg artist Nina Boesch strips them to their essence in her absolutely adorable miniature statues.

It’s only fitting that the towers that help supply our water should be sustainably crafted when transformed into art, and Nina has taken just the care to ensure these little icons are made from upcycled goodies. Nina, a New Yorker by way of Germany, recently sold her machine and hand-crafted water towers (each about five inches tall), at our Holiday Market, but those who missed out on these gems can still fall in love with them on Nina’s colorful Instagram and learn more about them and Nina’s other work in our interview below.

Greenpointers: Hi Nina! To start, tell us a little about your journey to Brooklyn; you’ve lived abroad, and now you’re in Williamsburg?

Nina Boesch: I came to New York from Germany in August 2001 and instantly fell in love with the city. After 9/11, I felt an odd sense of belonging. I wasn’t the only one starting over. Everyone was. I knew then that NYC was going to be my forever home.

I studied Graphic Design at RISD but have otherwise lived in NYC. After more than 10 years in Manhattan I moved to Brooklyn in 2016 for the usual reason: I wanted more bang for my buck and a change of pace. I found a whole new life in Williamsburg and even welcomed a baby boy at age 39.

A Nina Boesch water tower, photo provided by the artist

Sustainability is a major part of your work. Can you discuss that passion?

Having been raised in Germany—a country that strictly enforces trash recycling— it’s impossible to ignore New York’s trash problem. When I first arrived, I realized that many New Yorkers just dropped their trash wherever they stood or walked. It was slightly traumatizing but I was willing to accept the differences as long as I didn’t have to adapt to them. Living in a city that is famously filthy when you’re brought up with opposite ideals can be a real curse. On the bright side, I see endless inspiration for upcycling and repurposing projects wherever I walk in this town. 

Recycled plastic bag rolls used to make the tank of Nina’s water tanks, photo provided by the artist

Your water towers are such little triumphs. What about those structures appealed to you?

I have been obsessed with water towers ever since I came to New York. Their industrial look adds a certain kind of charm to any neighborhood. They stand tall in their rusty, worn-down, often vandalized nature while the city around them evolves and grows shinier and fancy year after year.

About five years ago, I set my mind to making a series of small table-top sculptures that illustrate this merging of the old and used with the shiny and new. It took a good three years and a dozen prototypes before I landed on my current design. 

Can you discuss your process of getting the plastic tubes used as the tanks? Do you color the tubes, or are they all colored that way when you get them? It’s so fun to have a variety to play with.

My water tower sculptures are made from stainless steel and brass and each has a repurposed plastic part as the “tank.” The plastic parts come from produce aisles of local grocery stores. The next time you use one of those translucent plastic bags to pack up your veggies, take a closer look!  At the end of the roll is a plastic tube, similar to a toilet paper tube but plastic. These tubes come in tons of different colors. I cut them up and give them a new life as part of my water towers. The variety of the colors and metals make for some very fun water tower designs.

Onto your collages: you cut up metro cards. Do you find these are harder to find now that so many people use their phone to pay and work from home?

For the last couple of years it has been much harder to find used and expired MetroCards. During the height of the pandemic, people simply didn’t travel much by subway and now we are switching to the contactless payment system. I am not worried about my MetroCard collage venture at all though. Change is good and long overdue, knowing that we are getting rid of a gratuitous plastic waste product. I am very fortunate to still receive MetroCard donations from friends and even strangers—I have tens of thousands of MetroCards and am able to continue to make new collages for decades to come. 

Is the repetition of the blue, yellow, white, and black colors limiting or inspiring?

I find the limited color palette inspiring and very iconic. It is exactly this repetition of the same colors that makes my collages so recognizable. I’ve been making these collages for over 20 years and I never grow tired of them. There are some collages I have made in various color combinations. It’s kind of fun to see how many different Brooklyn Bridges while retaining the same limited color palette. 

Thank you so much for your time and craft!
Thank you!

Nina Boesch’s subway map collage made from recycled MTA cards

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