Monday, November 9, 2015

St. John the Divine and The Value of Food

The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, located  the Upper West Side of Manhattan in New York City is the largest cathedral in the world.   St. Peter's Basilica in Rome is larger, but it's not a cathedral,  but a church, because the cathedral  is   the designated principal church within a diocese. There are a lot of interesting facts about the cathedral - I wrote about St. John the Divine in my post 1 and post 2 in June 2014.

Every year there is a new art exhibition  at the cathedral.  Last year pair of monumental birds were installed   in the majestic nave.  As these phoenixes hovered some 20 feet above, their tiny, twinkling lights illuminated an array of unexpected materials: feathers fashioned from shovels; crowns made of weathered hard hats; heads created from jackhammers.   You can read about phoenixes in the cathedral in one of my posts.
 This fall  the multimedia  display   "The Value of Food: Sustaining a Green Planet"   opened  at the Cathedral.  The  exhibition   explores food production and access, environmental and agricultural sustainability and related issues.  The Value of Food explores the dynamic and organic materiality of food and its integral role in sustaining human life. The artists in this exhibition work with food as a form of social engagement.

The exhibit features  artists whose works are installed in the cathedral's seven chapels and 14 bays. It's divided into seven themes: water, soil, seed, farm, market, meal and waste.
The steel and bronze sculpture “The Tables”, by Tom Otterness, appears among the works of 30 artists in the exhibition.

   Otternes  has more than forty public commissions in the US including Life Underground , his celebrated installation in the New York city subway station at 14th street and 8th Avenue( I wrote about it in one of my  posts) and "The Real World"   in Nelson Rockefeller park near Battery Park City ( you can see the pictures of his sculptures  in the park here).

The Otternes exhibition   consists of three picnic tables arranged in a 38-foot row filled with chaotic scenes: a broken human figure, a dinner-plate-size penny divided like a pizza and a cracked globe suspended on a pulley. The 1986 work has been variously interpreted as a civilization in decline and a symbol of gluttony.
 The artist  hopes people sit down at his work called "The Tables" to discuss the iniquity of food. "It's about running an inn, and the wealthy have food and the poor don't and that's the essential concern," Otterness said.
 The sculptures  by  Tom Otterness are installed  not only in the center on the tables but within the support columns   of the Cathedral.