From afar they are just wooden water towers. If I did not take a closer look I would have missed this work of art by Ivan Navarro, a Chilean born Brooklyn based artist.
Ivan Navarro named this art “This Land Is Your Land” from Woody Guthrie’s folk song of the same title. Some people think this song is an alternative national anthem and to others it is a Marxist response to “God Bless America.” (Source: NPR)
It tells a story of freedom given to immigrants who chose this land as their land. Each of these water towers stands on an eight foot support and visitors can stand below the water towers and view the inside.
Each tower has neon light designs with words like “me” and “we”, “bed” and the third display, an endless ladder. The mirror and water inside the tanks gave an illusion of endless vertical space, image and words. (Photo below shows my reflection and the illusion of an endless ladder.)
While visiting Santiago Chile last year, our tour guide brought us to Palacio de la Moneda and told us about Pinochet and Chilean life under his regime. Mr. Navarro who was born in Santiago Chile in 1972 must have lived through the terror of 1973 with his family.
According to Martin Friedman, Senior Curator of the Madison Square Park Conservancy: Ivan Navarro uses memory – as a child during the brutal Pinochet regime in Chile and reflection on the freedoms of the American experience to create This Land is Your Land.” (Source: Madison Square Park)
As an immigrant myself I would interpret these water towers differently from one who is native born. The words “we” and “me” in most cultures are the same word. We live as a community where friends and neighbors share food freely in our homes. There is always room for another person to eat and share. “We” and “me” are always welcome to chat and linger on. If it is late – take my kids’ room and stay the night and let’s do it all over again tomorrow.
Seriously, that was how we were treated when we were in Santiago Chile. Our tour guide invited us to her parent’s home where we shared a meal, showered and chatted like old friends before leaving for the airport.
The ladder is a work of a genius. To me, it shows the endless opportunities that This Land has given to all immigrants since the 1600s. This is the land that is the most tolerant when it comes to race and gender.
Art is an expression and Jack Pollock said, “every good painter paints what he is.”
Information: Madison Square Park