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The Green Life: World Financial Center Hangs Garbage Chandelier

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May 07, 2012

World Financial Center Hangs Garbage Chandelier

Katharine Harvey chandelierIn 2006, Canadian visual artist Katharine Harvey dreamed of creating an installation that exceeded the limits of her pocketbook. “I wanted to build a waterfall, and I wanted to make something big, but I didn’t have much of a budget at the time,” she said. She was in search of affordable materials that might resemble water when it occurred to her: plastics.
From that point onward, Harvey began to collect discarded plastic. She would go down the street with her car and pick up bottles and other packaging, which she would wash, de-label, and string together for a series of mesmerizing installations. Between projects, she stored her heap of materials in a friend’s barn, where they awaited future use.
Six years later, many of those same materials can be found hanging in the Winter Garden of the World Financial Center in Manhattan. This April, on the eve of Earth Day, Harvey and four assistants hung 450 pounds of water bottles, salad boxes, toy packaging, and egg cartons above the Garden’s marble staircase. Taken together, these materials do not resemble trash; they resemble a shimmering chandelier.
The chandelier, originally installed at Toronto’s Brookfield Place, is framed perfectly by the architecture of the Winter Garden. “It’s the best placement I’ve ever had for a piece I’ve done in a public space,” Harvey said. “It’s placed in the middle of the staircase, and people can practically walk above it, or in the middle of it, or further down.” Harvey also noted that the chandelier is “made out of transparent materials, which have an interesting relationship to the glass ceiling in the winter garden. There are all these interrelations between the transparency of the piece and the glass. The lighting is fantastic.”

As for Harvey’s Earth Day message, she explained: “I was looking for some kind of shape that I could make, and the chandelier seemed appropriate because it’s a symbol of wealth and opulence, and it’s in the financial core of the city, but it’s made out of recycled trash. I wanted that irony between the material and what the sculpture represents. The public comes in and sees this large, beautifully lit, glittery sculpture and they go ‘Oh, wow, a beautiful chandelier!’ and then they go and see what it’s made of, and it jars their thinking.”
Earth Day or no, Harvey is careful not to overstate her point. “I try not to beat people over the head with the environmental issue. I think people can figure it out on their own when they see it.”
If New Yorkers want to draw their own conclusions, they should hurry up and catch Harvey’s chandelier, which will adorn the Winter Garden through May 11th.

--Image by Katharine Harvey

Jenny SlatteryJenny Slattery is a contributing blogger at Sierra magazine. She also spends her time working in health education, hiking, writing fiction and searching for the perfect bagel.


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