Most commuters consider the Pulaski Bridge linking Long Island City with Brooklyn to be something less than a work of art, but a collaboration between a borough artist, the city Department of Transportation and Transportation Alternatives has brought some aesthetic relief to cyclists and pedestrians traversing the span.
Long Island City artist Joel Voisard spent three weeks creating “The Bridge that Binds,” spray-painting a series of stencils along the waist-high concrete barrier separating the walkway from the motor vehicle lanes and constructing an elaborate bench at a promontory point overlooking Newtown Creek.
“I felt that I had passed this spot so many times living in Greenpoint and Long Island City,” the 32-year-old sculptor and graphic designer said. “I felt that this place definitely called for a bench.”
Voisard’s stencils are simplified silhouettes of pedestrians and cyclists — maroon on the Queens side in honor of the No. 7 train and green on the Brooklyn side in allegiance to the G train. He said he enjoyed conversing with commuters as he worked on the installation.
“I got a lot of comments that were positive, a lot asking what was going on, making sure I wasn’t a vandal,” he said, noting one man demanded to see a permit and threatened to call the police.
The bridge was selected by the mayor’s Community Affairs Unit and the DOT’s Urban Art Program for an installation last year. Transportation Alternatives helped hash out an idea for the design, but Voisard’s bench clinched the commission, several people said.
“Some of the artists were maybe looking at doing a single installation, a single piece,” said Transportation Alternatives volunteer Lynne Serpe. “It was very attractive, but we liked the idea of the bridge between the two boroughs and sort of meeting in the middle.”
The bench is constructed from reclaimed construction materials Voisard finds at various lumber and salvage yards throughout the city.
“I pull what I like, and then from there I let it inspire me,” he said.
Emily Colascco, manager of the DOT’s Urban Art Program, said she was amazed with the final product.
“The original design was quite different, and Joel added these amazing legs to the bottom of the bench, and it’s really elegant,” she said. “It’s exactly what we had hoped for in the space.”
At least one of Voisard’s stencils is certain to turn heads. Over toward the Queens side of the bridge, a pair of legs appears to be in the midst of performing the late Michael Jackson’s iconic “Moonwalk” dance.
The artist said this was not inspired by the pop legend’s death in June.
“I was intrigued by %u2026 what kind of expression you get from the lower half [of the body],” he said. “I know that tiptoe or that moonwalk is definitely something that people can definitely relate to.”
“The Bridge that Binds” will be on display for 11 months on the bridge. Those wishing to see it can head down to the intersection of Jackson and McGuinness avenues in Long Island City.
Graffiti removal teams have received instructions not to erase the stencils before their time, Voisard said.
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jewalsh@cn
©2009 Community News Group
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