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26 Life-Sized Sculptures Take Over Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza

By Amy Zimmer | March 24, 2011 2:21pm

By Amy Zimmer

DNAinfo News Editor

TURTLE BAY — The 26 androgynous life size sculptures in Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza have attracted the curiosity of the tourists, residents and workers as they were installed along 47th Street between the United Nations on First Avenue and Second Avenue.

"Borders," by internationally acclaimed Icelandic sculptor Steinunn Thórarinsdóttir — running through Sept. 30 — features 13 figures made of heavy rust-colored cast iron standing or sittting across 13 mirror images made of lightweight silver aluminum that they're seemingly in silent conversation with.

"Everyone is interested in it," said Mary Ann Mobley, 58, while walking Christy, her German shepherd mix. "The kids are touching it. My dog is barking at it. People are sitting next to [the figures] taking pictures. Even I took some pictures."

"It looks like they are two opposing sides considering one another's existence," Mobley said. "It could be two different races or two different countries. It's very thought provoking."

"Borders" is the largest temporary public art exhibit in Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza's history, and it's the first installation to incorporate the length of the whole park.

Mobley was pleased to see art taking over the entire space of the plaza, since the space's proximity to the UN means it's more often taken over by political rallies than by artwork.

"Usually (the art) is just a little thing over there," she said pointing toward a corner along Second Avenue.

Thórarinsdóttir wants people to dream up their own ideas about the figures.

"I don't want to interpret them too narrowly," she said, "because people see different things in them."

The plaza's symmetrical configuration and the symbolic presence of the nearby UN immediately inspired Thórarinsdóttir when she saw the space.

"This installation somehow had an easy birth," she said. She placed the dark-colored, weighty cast-iron sculptures along the park's side bordering the Katherine Hepburn garden, which is "more earth," Thórarinsdóttir explained. The shiny, lightweight figures are viewed "closer to seeing the sky," or "more heaven," she said.

"It's really creepy, but they give life to the park," said professional dog walker Gabriel Tigre, 24. "It feels like something is watching you, but in a good way."

Gene Hughes, 53, who works at the UN, was curious how school kids passing through on class trips to the UN would react.

"It's not in your face nudity," Hughes said. "It's like they're baring their soul or something. They're almost alien-like. It's definitely going to generate conversation."