Volume 17 • Issue 3 | June 11 - 17, 2004

Umbrellas open to mixed reviews in Battery Park

By Erica Stein

Downtown Express photo by Ramin Talaie

Downtown artist Victor Matthews near his “Beyond Metamorphosis” work of 3,000 umbrellas in Battery Park on Sunday. The exhibit will be on display until June 20.

Battery Park is housing almost 3,000 of Victor Matthews’ butterflies – each painted onto an open 40-inch canvas umbrella. Safely nestled in the lawn near Castle Clinton, the butterflies, which make up the temporary installation “Beyond Metamorphosis,” is drawing more than a few tourists and workers from nearby offices over to the fence that encloses them. Reactions on Tuesday ran the gamut from awed appreciation to near indignation.

Jo Petestive, who works in the veterinary care center up the street, saw the butterflies on Monday and liked them so much she came back on Tuesday to take another look. “I think it’s fabulous,” she said. “When I saw it I thought it might have something to do with 9/11 because there are 3,000 butterflies and the sign says they migrate 3,000 miles a year. And the artist’s brother told me the show is about transformation. They look like tiger lilies from a distance. It’s spectacular,” she said.

Carmen Williams of New Jersey, on the other hand, wondered what all the excitement was about. “My honest take is, why even put it on display? It’s an artist’s vision and I guess I can respect that, but it does nothing for me,” she said.

Mark and Laura, who declined to give their last names, were visiting the city from Los Angeles. They thought the artist must have had a lot of time on his hands. Mark said “it’s silly, like most big art.” Laura added, “I’d rather be sitting on that grass than looking at all these umbrellas, even if it is kind of pretty.”

The most common reaction, however, was bemused — the affection expressed by about a half-dozen onlookers. Josef Abondo, from Colombia, said “I figured each one would look different but to me they all look the same – even though I like them a lot.” Steve, also from L.A., saw the show advertised in a newspaper and came Downtown specifically to visit the installation, though he wasn’t sure quite what to make of it. “I decided I had to see it. I’m still taking it all in, but it seems like an interesting visual.”
“Beyond Metamorphosis” represents more than a year of work for Matthews, who lives on the border of Chinatown and Tribeca on Leonard St. The installation, located in the park near the 1-9 South Ferry station, opened on June 7. Sponsored in part by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, “Beyond Metamorphosis” is a part of Parks & Recreations’ temporary public art program and will run through June 20.

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