By Bascove
Guest Columnist
New York, NY, USA

New York City has more than 2000 bridges connecting and integrating its various neighborhoods and environs. In their day, these engineering marvels represented to the rest of the world the inventiveness and boldness of a young country. Even today, the sensation of suspension, whether crossing over water or above land, of moving from one world to another while hovering above, is both timeless and euphoric.

After decades of drawing, painting and making prints of these magnificent bridges, I began to arrange and reconstruct my research photographs differently. Reassembling the geometry and architectural details of these structures, many I’ve come to know intimately, was a delight. They instantly became new spaces to explore. Other obsessions – the moon, botany and reading – that had previously been painted in a more realistic manner were soon treated to this same investigation. As many of these pieces developed over several months, personal influences and memories were often subtly included.

Mixed media is uniquely liberating for this pursuit. My photographs and drawing are integrated with magazine and book scraps, cut paper, internet printouts, thread and fabric. Fusing many passions – astronomy, engineering, poetry, architecture and natural science – they uncover the innate dynamism of growth and form.

Queensboro Bridge North to South

Queensboro Bridge North to South was the first time I realized I wanted some sense of movement to be felt with these reconstructions. The photographs were taken walking from the uptown side of the bridge to the downtown side. Working with several viewpoints, I thought of the overall picture as being created from pieces, like a quilt, and cut up some geometric quilt reproductions to make circles around the towers next to the bridge, their geometry perfectly echoed the shapes in the bridge’s girders. The eight sections are arranged from the top to the bottom of the bridge, north to south.

Outerbridge Crossing

Outerbridge Crossing also plays with myriad views of a bridge, the different elements repeat, forming a multitude of patterns, this time turning into a spiral. The bridge’s architecture & the kinetic experience of traveling on the road become integrated, generating a sense of continual movement. Prints of the first sepia photographs of the bridge are incorporated into a more contemporary experience. A quiet mug of coffee, a note from the work of the studio, sits at the center of the vortex.
It was after reading Jerome Charyn’s two haunting books on Emily Dickinson, The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson and A Loaded Gun, that, like many others, I revisited her work. In Emily Wore White, her poem, A Spider Sewed at Night, is interpreted in a very personal way. What had originally seemed like a simple nine-line verse became a treatise on the life and labor of women of her time.

Her identification with the spider who pulls the web out of her body as Dickinson brought the lines of the poem out of hers, in private, at night, is a most powerful image. That she also speaks of the hours of women sewing, from collars to shrouds, covering the breadth of a life, reminded me of the women in my own family who, at quiet moments were rarely without a needle in their hands. It’s the first time I had sewn through the layers of paper, I embedded some of my mother’s needles and thread in this piece. There are also small reproductions dotted throughout in homage of two other notable female arachnophiles, artist Louise Bourgeois and botanist Maria Sibylla Merian. 

Eclipse in Black & White

Eclipse in Black & White includes years of my drawings & photographs of eclipses. The year I worked on this mixed media piece my lunar photos were so monochromatic I experimented with a mostly black & white palette. I added two drawings done from previous eclipses, paint and thread color charts, and combined them with drawn black and white shapes inspired by a favorite painting, The Jug on the Table, by Liubov Povova.   

There is a scrap of memory; my childhood bedroom’s pink and starred ceiling, in Star Maps. It’s merged with starfish, star-pattered fabrics, the Constellations of Grand Central Terminal’s ceiling and images of the birth and deaths of stars from the NASA and ALMA Observatories. Here color charts are the light spectrum; there are color bands radiating out of the galaxies. The colors of stars tell astronomers their age and the speed at which they are moving.

Hell Gate Bridge - NYC

Hell Gate Bridge is the most recent piece included in the exhibit. This was my first foray into video, it ended up being a wonderful way to document and explain the process of gathering, choosing, adding and subtracting materials and then drawing over them. It could not have been done without the many hours of the brilliant videographer Shalom Gorewitz, who took my chaotic photos and made them into something orderly and coherent, and Wendy Blackstone, who generously let me use a short piece of her sublime music which, as her music always does, adds depth and soul.

I want these compositions to have movement, an energy that reflects the exhilaration felt while they were growing and changing, seeing various elements joyfully finding new contexts, and finally, building new exciting relationships between them. 

(My thanks to Dr. Lynn L. Siebert, Director of The Atrium Gallery, Morris Arts)



Bascove’s Exhibition: Celestial Symphonies & Bridge Solos can be seen at the Atrium Gallery, Morris Arts, from September 27, 2018 – January 7, 2019 at the Morris County Administration & Records Building, 10 Court Street, Morristown, New Jersey. 

All opinions expressed are solely those of its author and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.