Contemporary Wreaths On View in Central Park

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The City's Parks and Recreation department opened its 28th annual "Wreath Interpretations" exhibition at the Arsenal Gallery in Central Park on Thursday, December 9. The show runs through January 6, 2011.

In modern America, a wreath is a mark of the holiday season. Round boughs of evergreens adorned with acorns, berries and ribbon--essentially the little sis' to the Christmas tree. But "Wreath Interpretations" pushes the boundaries of tradition. There are 30 wreaths on display this year and there’s not a traditional one in the bunch. Each one is an artistic interpretation of what a wreath is. The only common theme is the circle pattern.

“The ones that are hanging up run the gamut from really lighthearted to religious to darker things that we don’t traditionally see in holiday decorations,” said Adam Kaufman, a Parks and Recreation employee at the exhibit. “There’s not one definition of the holidays and all these pieces express a range of emotions that are all just as valid and speak to the holiday season as much as any of the others.”

Half of the artists in the show are Parks and Recreation employees, or “Parkies,” as they call themselves. Larry Hagberg, the Parks blacksmith, has participated for the past 20 years. “It’s an opportunity to put some of my creativity out there instead of light poles and gates,” said Hagberg. “I’m showing off another side of my skill.” Hagberg’s piece, “Celestial Celebration” features a hammered steel mask surrounded by metal stars.

Many of the wreaths on view also express a message, such as Wendy Popp’s “Colony Collapse Disorder,” which is a tribute to the absence of bees. Her wreath is sculpted out of salt dough with a bee-shaped hole in the center.

Popp is a professor at Parson’s Illustration Department and encouraged her sophomore class to send in proposals for the exhibition. Six of them were accepted. “I had asked them to be part of this and I wanted them to use sustainable materials and talk about a 20th century issue that they were concerned about,” she said.

There’s also a wreath about the oil spill in the Gulf, one about threatened Asiatic black bears, another about bioethics, and one about AIDS. Either with a cause or without, these wreaths break away from, and have fun with, the tradition. “Artists always tend to want to defer to a context but they also want to impart a certain kind of personal statement or reflection in the work that they do,” Popp added.

A favorite amongst the Parkies is Takeshi Yamada’s “Giant Sea Serpent Wreath,” a 32-foot long polymer snake coiled into a round with real taxidermy jaws. The wreath is covered in Coney Island sand and wrapped in a red velvet bow.

The third-floor Arsenal Gallery on Fifth Avenue and 64th Street at Central Park has art up year round, and this exhibit is free. Most of the wreaths are for sale, and a portion of sales go to Parks and Recreation programs. Open weekdays from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M.

Photo by Perry Santanachote/WNYC
"Celestial Celebration" by Larry Hagberg; hammered steel
Photo by Perry Santanachote/WNYC
"Birkenwalk im Winter" by George Pisegna; natural birch bark, balsam wood and artificial greens
Photo by Perry Santanachote/WNYC
"Whishes" by Vilde Kleppe Braanaas; wire, paper mache, squash seeds
By Perry Santanachote
"For All Farmers" by George Kroenert; apple cardboard, snap ties, mason's line
Photo by Perry Santanachote/WNYC
"Moon Bear Crucifixtion" by Lea Mairet; wood, paint, foam core
Photo by Perry Santanachote/WNYC
"Giant Sea Serpent Wreath" by Takeshi Yamada; taxidermy jaws, galvanized steel, acrylic paper, synthetic polymer, sands of Coney Island
Photo by Perry Santanachote/WNYC
"Holisphere" by the Grant Unit, Department of Parks and Recreation; ribbon, wire, glue
Photo by Perry Santanachote
"Man's Potential Over Time" by Abigail Malate; lauan plywood, ink
Photos by Perry Santanachote
"Rose Wreath" by Jennifer Cecere; rip stop nylon, acrylic
Wreaths are on display at the Arsenal Gallery on Fifth Avenue and 64th Street.
Photos by Perry Santanachote/WNYC
Wreaths are on display at the Arsenal Gallery on Fifth Avenue and 64th Street.
Photo by Perry Santanachote/WNYC
"Wreath of Corks" by Leonora Retsas; wire, corks, foam, ribbon
Photo by Perry Santanachote/WNYC
"Sticks and Stones" by John Clarke; birch and crabapple branches, moss, foam, white stones, roofing nails
Photo by Perry Santanachote
"Eine Stille Nacht" by Adrian Smith; wood, pine, rice paper, wire

Smith's wreath celebrates the moment of unofficial cessation between British and German soldiers on the Western front in World War II during Christmas in 1914. Christmas trees were erected, candles lit, carols sung and gifts exchanged in "no man's land."

Photo by Perry Santanachote/WNYC
"Colony Collapse Disorder" by Wendy Popp; salt dough

Popp's wreath was a tribute to the disappearing bees. The negative space in the center is shaped like a bee while the circumference is elaborately decorated with dough pieces. Popp discovered salt dough was a good substitute when the original beeswax fell apart.

Photo by Perry Santanachote
"Year 360" by Barbara Wallace; paper, acrylic paint, cardboard, wire


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Comments [3]

lea mairet from New York

thank you so much for this wonderful evening. I would like to thank Jennifer Lantzas, that give a wonderful opportunity to people. I was a really good experience and i really enjoy the variety of work that were presented. By all these different artists and style and helps to open your mind !

Dec. 14 2010 05:55 PM

Wendy, what a creative way to honour bees. I've been learning more about Colony Collapse Disorder lately. I'd like to recommend to anyone interested, a wonderful and powerful film: Vanishing of the Bees.
Their site is

Dec. 10 2010 02:27 PM
Wendy Popp from Larchmont, N.Y.

A note of thanks to Jennifer Lantzas who coordinated this effort, on behalf of my Parson's students and myself. I appreciate the opportunity to share this wreath during the serene dormancy of the season, an appropriate time to pause and reflect on the wreath as a commemoration of a sobering truth about Colony Collapse Disorder and the current plight of the honeybee. As some wreaths honor sacrifice, this is a tribute to natures most vigilant guardian. I hope it will also serve as a promise for the regeneration of spring and a reminder for the care we need to take to insure the health of these colonies so integral to our planet and our own existence.

Dec. 10 2010 08:49 AM

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