365,000 Acrylic Fingernails To Adorn Gigantic Fountain In World’s Most Famous Plaza
Pamela Council holding the fountain model. Photo by Alex Webster for Times Square Arts.
(NEW YORK, NY — August 18, 2021) — Times Square Arts is pleased to present A Fountain for Survivors, an immersive public art installation by artist Pamela Council. Building on a body of work the artist refers to as ‘Fountains for Black Joy,’ A Fountain for Survivors is both an ode to how we maintain and an exuberant life-affirming monument for survivors. The project will be on view in the Square’s most iconic plaza, Duffy Square, from October 7 to December 8, 2021.
STATEMENT BY THE ARTIST:
A Fountain for Survivors is a sheltered fountain in an iconic public space. Adorned and protected by a carapace of hundreds of thousands of acrylic fingernails, this fountain is my dedication and offering to Survivors and is open to the public that is outside in Times Square. On the topic of definition, Survivors know who they are; no one else can proclaim that for you. Conceived and created during a time when we are socially distanced, my goal with this work is to make an invitation to Survivors and a temporary monument that mirrors the experiences of masking & interiority that many have known, and which have now become a part of all of our lives. I started working with acrylic fingernails, that Black femme craft and protective style, over 13 years ago, and they have since become ubiquitous. So, I am most excited about the expressions of imagination that this work already has and will continue to inspire.
Free and open to the public, the colorful, 18-foot tall structure is a vessel for reflection on survival as New York City begins to open from pandemic isolation. A cocoon-like and hooded carapace—a protective covering encrusted in over 365,000 hand-placed acrylic fingernails from the leading global artificial nail supplier, KISS Products—will house a tiered fountain inside, flowing with a natural healing liquid. Designed to be a welcoming, warm, and enveloping space, visitors will enter the structure and encounter a range of sensory experiences, such as heat, sound, and scent. The artist is designing a special “wishing wafer” that will be available at select times throughout the project’s run for visitors to toss into the fountain for a fizzy lucky moment.
As a historic hub for celebration, performance, protest, and gathering, Times Square is a fitting platform for Pamela’s fountain. Mirroring Times Square’s ability to keep sparkling, from seeing approximately 30,000 daily pedestrians at the height of the pandemic to over 200,000 at present, A Fountain for Survivors acts as a communal but intimate site. The maximalist installation—encompassing hundreds of thousands of shiny fingernails, illuminating lights, and bold colors—offers a diversion from the spectacle of Times Square, providing visitors with a private moment for comfort, contemplation, and pleasure in the midst of the Square’s multi-sensory backdrop.
“Council has created an incredible and timely public offering with A Fountain for Survivors in that it embodies the dualities critical to survival of any kind—a deceptively strong outer shell that protects a tender and contemplative interiority—all while maintaining a space for humor and pleasure in between,” said Times Square Arts Director Jean Cooney.
Council’s works are anything but conventional: they’re defined by exuberant color, elaborate sculptural adornments, darkly humorous elements, and an Afro-Americana camp aesthetic called BLAXIDERMY, often incorporating unique materials such as hair beads, fingernails, lotion, and artificial nails. Their work explores Black joy, grooming, and grieving, touching on themes from personal to political that shed light on under-examined narratives and make space for healing and pleasure. In previous works, water is replaced in fountains with bubbling bright red soda and cascades of Luster's Pink Lotion.
Throughout the project’s run, Times Square Arts and Pamela Council will activate the sculpture and surrounding spaces with public programs including performances, workshops, and special events. Details to come at a later date.
“This project reminds us that we are truly all survivors of something, and it mirrors the spirit of Times Square in many ways – completely one-of-a-kind, relentless in its creativity, and determined to spark joy,” said Tom Harris, Times Square Alliance President.
Credits and Acknowledgment
A Fountain for Survivors is commissioned by Times Square Arts with generous support provided by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund; and in part through support from the National Endowment for the Arts; the New York State Council on the Arts; and public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.
Agger Fish Building in the Brooklyn Navy Yard was generously donated by Marc Agger for fabrication support.
Thank you to Denny Dimin Gallery for the care, advocacy, and support that make major public artworks like A Fountain for Survivors possible.
ABOUT PAMELA COUNCIL
(b.1986 Southampton, New York, lives and works in New York City & Newark, NJ)
Pamela Council is a New York-based interdisciplinary artist creating fountains for Black joy. Guided by material, cultural, and metaphysical quests, Council’s practice embodies a darkly humorous, maximalist, and inventive Afro-Americana camp aesthetic called BLAXIDERMY. Through this lens, Council uses sculpture, print, design, architecture, writing, and performance to shed light on under-examined narratives and to make tributes, offerings, and dedications.
Council has created commissions, exhibitions, performances, or presentations for the New Museum for Contemporary Art, United States Library of Congress, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Studio Museum in Harlem, Nike, and MoCADA. Council has been Artist-in-Residence at MacDowell Colony, ISCP, Red Bull Arts, Bemis Center, Mass MoCA, and Wassaic Project. A recipient of the Joan Mitchell Painters and Sculptors Grant, Toby Devan Lewis Award, and Newark Creative Catalyst Award as a studio member of Project for Empty Space, Council holds a BA from Williams College and an MFA from Columbia University.
ABOUT TIMES SQUARE ARTS
Times Square Arts, the public art program of the Times Square Alliance, collaborates with contemporary artists and cultural institutions to experiment and engage with one of the world's most iconic urban places. Through the Square's electronic billboards, public plazas, vacant areas and popular venues, and the Alliance's own online landscape, Times Square Arts invites leading contemporary creators, such as Mel Chin, Tracey Emin, Jeffrey Gibson, Ryan McGinley, Yoko Ono, and Kehinde Wiley, to help the public see Times Square in new ways. Times Square has always been a place of risk, innovation and creativity, and the Arts Program ensures these qualities remain central to the district's unique identity.
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