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The Poetry of Decay:
Photo-constructions of Architectural Ruins by Susan Leopold
at The Hudson River Museum

YONKERS, NY. June 1, 2005 — Castles and Untold Stories, a site-specific installation, is on view at the Hudson River Museum from June 11 through September 5, 2005.Created for the museum’s distinctive planetarium wall by New York City artist Susan Leopold, the installation creates a panoramic impression of the ruins of Bannerman Castle on Pollopel Island in the Hudson River, about fifty miles north of New York City. This exhibition also highlights Leopold’s earlier photo-constructions that deal with a variety of magnificent architectural structures in decay

Susan Leopold’s work includes intricate constructions utilizing steel, mirrors and photographs, which she has come to term photo-constructions because of their three- dimensional quality. Leopold’s photography is also the basis for her detailed drawings on translucent paper that are represented here by two fine examples based on her recent trip to Cuba. The sheer drawings cover photographs of empty spaces creating a ghosting effect.

Bannerman’s Castle is a romantic ruin that perfectly illustrates the poetry of decay. In Castles and Untold Stories, the interior and exterior spaces of the castle weave across the curved wall, leaving a sense that there are stories yet untold about the island. The physical shape of the museum wall was the springboard for the concept behind this artwork, which plays with the notion of perspective in a world that is round.

Photographic-mirrored constructions of Bannerman Castle and the island’s overgrown vegetation wrap the curved wall, enhancing the idea of landscape, the horizon line, and the undulating lines of the river. A hallmark of Leopold’s photo-constructions is her use of photographs of abandoned urban sites such as buildings, empty swimming pools or deserted school bathrooms. She then surrounds the photos with angled mirrors so both the viewer and the image are endlessly reflected.

Castles and Untold Stories touches Pollopel Island from its history in the American Revolution to a mysterious fantasy world inspired by its romantic imagery. More recently, the island’s story has centered on Francis Bannerman, an eccentric industrialist, who housed his huge munitions collection in his simulated Scottish castle, which was completed in 1917. Bannerman imagined that the collection would someday become "The Museum of the Lost Arts.” In 1967, the family sold Bannerman Castle to New York State, which took possession after the military merchandise was removed and given to the Smithsonian. The state’s plan to open Bannerman Island as a park ended in 1969, when a raging fire of unknown origin decimated all the buildings.

The Hudson River Museum installation provides a connection between eras in history and the human desire to construct institutions that house objects of historic relevance.

The Hudson River Museum is located at 511 Warburton Avenue, Yonkers, NY.
Hours: Wednesday - Sunday from 12-5 pm. Friday, 12-8 pm.
Museum: $5 adults, $3 seniors and children 4-12. Children under 4 free. Members $3.
Information: 914.963.4550 www.hrm.org. On Fridays 5-8 pm admission to galleries and the planetarium free.

   

 

 



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