Alvaro Corzo recently sat down with Carole to discuss the significance of her new bronze Survival of Serena and what it means for her to have it displayed for the first time in the neighborhood she knows so well. Read below to learn about the history and some of the events surrounding this magnificent work.
Q&A with CAROLE FEUERMAN
Photo and Questions by Alvaro Corzo. Edited by Sasha Sheftel
Question 1: What are the origins of your monumental pieces?
Answer: The long history of Survival of Serena began in 1984, when I created a life-size sculpture called Innertube. Many years later, John Spike, a prominent curator, asked me to exhibit monumental versions of my life-size Innertube and Catalina sculptures in a show called “By the Sea” at the 2007 Venice Biennale. These two monumental sculptures were displayed outside the Pavilion Paradiso, where they had a tremendous effect on the viewers. This was a key event in my career, and it prompted me to begin creating more monumental works for public spaces.
Question 2: What prompted you to change the titles from Innertube to Survival of Serena and Catalina to Grande Catalina?
Answer: Essentially, I had to re-sculpt the original life-size pieces. It took months of work at the foundry to recreate all the details in the figures. I had the opportunity to change them a bit, to refine the facial features – for example, I had the freedom to change the tilt of an eyebrow, the curve of a lip, the gesture of a finger – in order to make the monumental pieces more beautiful. Therefore, I ended up with two sculptures that were similar, but not identical, to the pieces on which they were based. And I felt that these new pieces deserved to have their own titles.
Question 3: What is the significance/meaning of the name Survival of Serena?
Answer: A majority of my sculptures are named after islands. Originally, I was going to name the sculpture Serena, after La Serenissima, an island of the city of Venice. However, I decided to title it Survival of Serena, due to my concerns about the serious flood problem this beautiful city has.
Question 4: Almost twenty years later, do you think it is easier and faster to create a monumental sized sculpture?
Answer: Well, the foundries have perfected the process of enlarging and milling the Urethane. However, I think that not that much has really changed: it is still up to the artist to recreate the piece and to put all the details back in. In my case, this is the perfect opportunity for me to go beyond the original piece, because when you work in a monumental scale you can see things that you otherwise can’t see when you work life-size or even in a miniature scale.
Question 5: Tell me a bit about the buzz your first monumental piece created at the Venice Biennale. Was this reassurance of the path you wanted to walk from then on?
Answer: 255,000 people, most of them from the art world, saw the piece in Venice that summer. It was the talk of the show, to the point where it was named the “mascot” of the Biennale by the syndicated press. I was invited to display the piece at the 2008 Beijing Biennale where it won Best in Show. To this day, people are still buying my work because they remember my monumental sculptures from Venice.
Question 6: Where else has Survival of Serena and Grande Catalina been shown in the past years?
Answer: Survival of Serena has travelled across three continents and four countries. Among the cities that have hosted the sculpture are Florence, Porto Cervo, Venice, Mykonos, Beijing, Miami, Boca Raton, Palm Beach, San Francisco, El Paso, Amarillo, the Hamptons, and New York. Grande Catalina has shown in five countries: Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, and the United States (Florida, California, Texas, and New York)
Question 7: Tell me about the infamous incident with Continental Airlines?
Answer: Survival of Serena was coming back from the Beijing Biennale to be shown in Art Miami with Jim Kempner Fine Art, but when it arrived in New York City it was terribly damaged. The airline would not let my shippers pick it up or even see it to report the magnitude of the destruction it had suffered. A few days later, the syndicated press found out about the damage, and carried a story titled “Serena Didn’t Survive Continental Airlines.” The airline was forced to open the crate with the photographers gathered around. The photographs of the badly damaged Serena became viral in the art world, giving the piece tons of publicity.
The event was upsetting at the time, however it did have strong positive effects on my future work. It prompted me to start thinking about creating my monumental pieces out of bronze for installation in public places. The new version of Survival of Serena, is on display in NYC’s Petrosino Square through September 26th. and is made out of bronze.
Question 8: Taking into account the history and legacy of this piece, how meaningful is it for you that Survival of Serena is your first piece to be shown in a New York City Public Park?
Answer: It means the world to me! I live in SoHo, so to have my work installed in my backyard, so-to-speak, is a dream come true. To have thousands of New Yorkers and tourists from all over the world walk past my sculpture everyday, and to see how positively they react to it, is truly priceless.
Question 9: What reaction has struck you the most?
Answer: It was during one of the rainy days we had a few days ago when a group of women were stunned when they discovered that the water drops on the piece were not real. I was watching them from a distance, and I saw them trying to sweep away the water drops as if they were real raindrops. It was unbelievable.
Question 10: And yet there have been some reactions that were not so nice. You encountered some problems with people painting graffiti on the pedestal and signing their names on the actual sculpture. What is your response to this?
Answer: Well, in the past, another one of my Survival of Serena pieces was on public display in Italy for six months, and nobody ever did anything like this. I was hoping all New Yorkers would have a similar respect for the piece. After all, public art is there for everyone to enjoy, and that enjoyment should not be ruined just because of one person’s disrespectful actions. But even so, I have been greatly touched by the public’s response to these cases of vandalism. For example, we had strangers call my studio to let me know what happened and to offer help cleaning the sculpture, and several local businesses near Petrosino Square volunteered to keep their eyes open for me. The way people were so ready to help protect the sculpture has really moved me, and I want to say “thank you” to all those amazing New Yorkers!
Question 11: How have the large number of followers in your social networks responded to Survival of Serena?
Answer: I am still overwhelmed by the number of comments I got on Facebook and Twitter about Serena! I have almost 5000 fans on Facebook and almost as many on Twitter. Every night before I close my studio, I sit down and try to respond to as many comments as I can. For an artist, especially a sculptor, it is not very common to have such a fluid interaction with the public. The fact that the general public can see my work, engage with it, and then pull out their mobile device to send me their reaction is the real beauty of public art.
Question 12: What are the plans for this piece after it leaves Petrosino Square at the end of the summer?
Answer: If not already purchased, Survival of Serena in painted bronze will be going to Jim Kempner Fine Art, 501 W. 23rd Street for my solo show opening in October. I would really love to have my sculpture stay in the public realm. I want people to be able to freely enjoy a piece that represents the beauty of serenity, especially in such a hectic place like New York City.