Hew and Eye

Published Jun 2023

Sculptures Whimsical and Worrisome Join the Public Art Conversation Downtown

Two new public art pieces at the World Trade Center—one provocative, the other playful—are enlivening the Lower Manhattan streetscape.

The first is “Earth Poetica,” a 13-foot translucent globe perched in the lobby of Three World Trade Center, which at first glance appears to be fashioned from beautiful stained glass panels. In fact, it is comprised of a particularly pernicious form of garbage. “I was haunted by the images that I saw on a television documentary about plastic waste,” says Israeli sculptor Beverly Barkat. “There were impoverished children searching for ‘treasure’ among piles of plastic waste on the beach. The image was so strong and has stayed with me. Is this the beautiful Earth that we are leaving for our children? Is this our legacy—planet Earth covered by plastic waste?”

The project began in 2019, when Ms. Barkat started picking up plastic litter from near her home, in Jerusalem. She then expanded to bringing similar debris back from trips abroad, and asking friends send her their plastic waste. Soon, her studio with overflowing with brightly colored rubbish, which she began attaching to a spherical metal frame.

“Plastic pollution is one of the most critical problems we face today,” she continues. “As an artist, I express my emotions and views visually. I wanted to make the beauty of planet Earth visible while at the same time showing very clearly the problem for which we are all responsible.”

Steps away from the Greenwich Street entrance to Three World Trade, outside on the south side of the Oculus transit hub, passers-by are being charmed daily by a metallic menagerie of endangered species: “A Wild Life for Wildlife.”

Fashioned by renowned collaborative artist couple Gillie and Marc Schattner, the three sculptures include “The Giant Tandem Bike” (on which visitors can hop aboard a giant cycle), “The Rhino & Dogman” (in which visitors are invited to observe an intense game of chess between a white rhino and half-canine/half-human creature), and “The Elephant & Rabbitwoman” (at which a pachyderm and another hybrid critter are shown deep in conversation). Via the QR codes displayed on each sculpture, the public is offered more information about each animal’s lives and needs, along with the threats they face.

“Earth Poetica” is presented in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Program. “A Wild Life for Wildlife is hosted by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey.