Sunny, blue skies set the perfect canvas for artist Andrea Cote’s unveiling of her “Port of Views” installation on the observation deck of the Mitchell Park Marina yesterday.
The sculpture was installed at a ceremony led by former Mayor David Nyce, who thanked Cotes for her diligence and apologized for the “fits and starts” in getting the project moving forward.
The exhibit, he said, is a perfect meld, embracing the longtime histories of Greenport’s families as well as the village’s rich culture, “at a time when we tend to overlook these things,” he said.
Cote explained that her aim was to “create a portrait” of the village through the people that make up its rich history and fabric. Cote thanked all who’d helped support the project and bring it to fruition.
Next, the family members featured in the project, including Gail Horton, Dan Horton, Jo Watkins, Arthur Tasker, Jane Costello, who stood in for her father John, and Marilyn White Corwin, were acknowledged.
Despite some hesitation from one trustee and a member of the public, Cote got the go-ahead to proceed with her work, “A Port of Views” back in December.
Dan and Gail Horton shared their family’s four-centuries long connection to Greenport, she said; Barnabas Horton was an original settler of Southold in 1640 and following generations have resided in Greenport since. To view the Horton family video, click here. To view Jo Watkins’ video, click here.
The sculpture was fabricated by sponsors SFDS Fabrication and Design in Brooklyn and King Displays in New York City and funded through a Creative Individuals Grant from the New York State Council on the Arts, Cote said.
Cote spoke to the Greenport village board at work session last fall to discuss her proposal for “A Port of Views,” a site specific exhibition planned for Mitchell Park, that will run from Memorial Day through the Maritime Festival, and include activities at Floyd Memorial Library.
“The project relates to the history of Greenport. Viewers are invited to see it through the lenses of people who have lived here forever,” Cote said.
The exhibition was inspired by the camera obscura — a darkened box with a convex lens that projects an internal image onto an inside screen — and faces the port and Shelter Island, Cote said.
A standing wheel, five feet across in the center, is “reminiscent of a film reel or a captain’s wheel,” Cote said. When turned, the centerpiece has spokes, a pair of eyes, and a negative, and “when looking through it, you will see the landscape through the people’s eyes that are imprinted on the plexiglass,” Cote said.
The eyes, in negative, representing different generations, rotate inside the wheel of the sculpture. The eyes are printed digitally on transparent plexiglass so that the viewer will be gazing through the pupils at the landscape beyond.
Inspired by the camera obscura, Cote said she planned a series of workshops with children on how to create pinhole cameras. The goal, Cote said, was to delve into Greenport’s history and emphasize the beauty of the landscape, giving participants the chance to stand where their predecessors once stood.
Last year, Cote’s “Eyes on Riverhead” featured videotaped oral histories with longtime residents and business owners, including Anthony Meras of Star Confectionary, Cote said.
“Eyes On Main Street” was a community-based public art project for downtown Riverhead that aimed to “promote an awareness of the rich and varied spaces and stories of Riverhead’s citizens, drawing upon an oral histories with a visual twist,” according to Cote’s website.
A multimedia project, it consisted of a website and posters placed in empty windows along Main Street with QR codes, which, when scanned with a smartphone, took the viewer directly to the video of the person whose eyes were depicted on the blindfold. There was also a window installation of 100 blindfolds printed with eyes of residents, workers and visitors, created with the public at the 2013 Community Mosaic Festival and other events.
The interviews – which included talks with Riverhead locals including Pat Snyder of the East End Arts Council, Bob Spiotto of The Suffolk Theater, Maryanne McElroy, a business owner, teacher, and choir director, and others — were filled with rich memories. The exhibit generated media buzz and Cote said she hoped to recreate the momentum and capture Greenport’s rich history, creating portraits of the families who have long featured prominently on the village canvas.
A series of conversations with those featured in Cote’s Greenport exhibit will take place this summer.
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