A Fountain for Survivors

Pamela Council

Building on a body of work artist Pamela Council refers to as ‘Fountains for Black Joy,’ A Fountain for Survivors is both an ode to the ways in which we maintain ourselves and an exuberant life-affirming monument for survivors of all kinds. Adorned with a handmade mosaic of hundreds of thousands of acrylic fingernails, a massive cocoon-like structure houses a tiered water fountain inside a warm, welcoming, and enveloping space. Council’s largest public artwork to date, A Fountain for Survivors will be on view and accessible to all in Times Square’s most iconic plaza, Duffy Square, from October 14 to December 8, 2021.

Mirroring the spectacular and vibrant vernacular of Times Square itself, Council’s maximalist installation features glimmering fingernails, kinetic illumination, and swaths of bold colors across the extraordinary 18-foot tall carapace — the artwork’s protective, hooded outer shell. Meanwhile, the intimate interior hosting the artist-designed water feature welcomes visitors with a range of sensory experiences including heat, sound, and scent. Council envisions this fountain as an offering to Survivors.

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 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.”

— Pamela Council

As with much of their work, Council’s installation creates a distinct dynamic that treads the line between the familiar and the unexpected. Defined by exuberant color, elaborate adornments, and an Afro-Americana camp aesthetic the artist calls BLAXIDERMY, Council’s ‘Fountains for Black Joy’ explore nostalgia and grooming rituals that are both personal and political and are intended to 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.

“Fountains have this way of working in culture as meeting places, as gathering places, and places where people make wishes, giving people this ebullient sense of hope,” Council told Artnet News. “I hope people feel that, and are also inspired by the imaginative ways that I use materials.”

— artnet, Times Square Is Getting Its First Fountain—and It’s a Monumental Public Artwork Covered in 400,000 Acrylic Nails

Throughout the exhibition period for A Fountain for Survivors, Times Square Arts and Council will activate the sculpture and surrounding spaces with public programs including performances, workshops, and special events. Details to come at a later date!

Credits and Acknowledgements

A Fountain for Survivors is commissioned by Times Square Arts with generous support provided by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund; and in part though support from 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.

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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.

Graphic design by Paulina Almira.

Fabrication by Spaeth Design and Powerhouse Arts.

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.