Exploring Winter

February 8th, 2009 § 0 comments

For me it seems almost typical to look for what is missing in places. My latest images, in the vein of the missing, have revolved around looking for “nature” in the “city,” where there ought to be very little evidence of it. I have been interested in this seemingly cliché idea, however, because I live so near the last “forest” areas of Gotham. Inwood is surrounded by wandering, forest-like paths that are intermixed with recreational parks—baseball diamonds, playgrounds, dog parks—and bounded on one side by the waterfront, with all that riverfronts usually entail. Walking down Broadway everyday I have neighborhood shops on my right, and the inviting gates of Ft. Tryon Park on my left.

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Throughout the winter it has been amusing to watch how the dropping leaves of fall, followed by the rain, slush, and snow of February, has changed the landscape of Broadway. My interest in the snow is an interest in how we live, or live without, a presence of nature in the city. The appearance of winter seemed to render useless the outdoor activities that gave a sense of life and community to the streets. When I first visited Inwood last summer children were playing with water guns in the park, older couples sat sweating on the benches lining Broadway, and I imagine all the places I have recently discovered were used with the same enthusiasm. Large flocks of geese have taken over the baseball diamonds, the steps leading to the top of Inwood Hill Park are covered with layers of melting ice, the playgrounds left soggy and empty. Winter effects city life but it becomes integrated as quickly as anything else; salt and rain boots appear on the sidewalks, lost gloves and broken umbrellas become the common trash, and children go sledding instead of playing on the wet swings.

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People seem to negotiate around the weather to use their public spaces as they see fit, and the meeting ground seems to be in the traces or effects they have on one another. I can watch the snow glisten in the park for days and days, just as no one raked up the lovely fall leaves drifting out from the park onto Broadway, no one can seem to dirty the park snow; to the left of Broadway everything always appears extremely idyllic. At the same time I trudge through pools of melted snow, trash floating and deteriorating in the murky bottoms, and watch the white flakes absorb the colors of our city; various hues of gray, and in the last stages, shades of charcoal. The snow, acting like a kneaded eraser, alters the neighborhood landscape in the most inglorious ways possible. I can’t help but notice subway grates, shop fronts reflected in puddles, piles of blue salt, trash solidified beneath ice. In reality, the snow calls more attention to the city surrounding me than it does to the open spaces I am missing, but the lack of the latter feels intertwined with the former. In the same way that a new york winter seems to drive away tourists and stave off visitors, leaving it to those who try to belong here, winter clears the streets and parks enough to show what always exists and what is missing, what we try to replace and what we do without.

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