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Arsenal Gallery Show: Alice Momm: The Gleaner’s Song

While the Arsenal Gallery is currently closed, enjoy this slideshow of our latest exhibition, Alice Momm: The Gleaner's Song, or watch our video walkthrough with the artist!

About The Gleaner's Song

The Gleaner’s Song is a collection of mixed-media works, words, and photographs by artist Alice Momm, inspired by her daily, immersive walks in Central Park. The materials and impressions gathered on these rambles become the seeds of artworks that pay tribute to the ragged beauty of found objects in nature and honor the quiet dramas unfolding in unexpected places. While often humorous, the artworks reflect a deep concern for our environment and an appreciation of the interconnectedness of all living beings. This solo exhibition is Momm's love song to Central Park and an invitation to find wonder and joy in New York City’s parks.

Leaves and other found objects designed on, decorated, and pinned to a board.Collections In the Retelling…(2012-2020) by Alice Momm. Photo by Daniel Avila/NYC Parks

The many small works that comprise this piece, called Collections – In the Retelling…(2012-2020), are selected from the “collections wall” that Alice keeps in her studio. Consisting of found objects; pictures torn from magazines; stitched leaves and cut bark; drawings; and other odd bits, the wall operates like an ever-changing visual diary. The humble materials are transformed through Alice’s delicate interventions, evoking faces from bark shards, insects from pine needles, and neatly stitched patterns on fallen leaves.

An outline of a tree made from seed pods is displayed near a sculpture of a tiny rabbit rowing a canoe made of a tree bark on tulle made to look like water.Tree Memory II, 2020 by Alice Momm. Photo by Daniel Avila/NYC Parks

This wall drawing is made from the long pod-like seeds of the catalpa tree. On her frequent walks in Central Park, Alice gathers a few of the fallen seed pods at a time. To her, they have always looked like the exquisite strokes of a calligraphy brush. Here she uses these “strokes” to bring the memories of walking amongst the trees indoors. Below the tree, a small but fierce bunny paddles down a river of tulle in a bark canoe.

13 photographs of Central Park displayed on wall shelves in the galleryWhile Walking, Central Park, 2020 by Alice Momm. Photo by Daniel Avila/NYC Parks

Placed throughout the gallery is a series of small mounted photographs taken during Alice’s near-daily walks through Central Park. A haven for Alice, as it is for so many others, it has provided her solace through sadness as well as moments of calm, delight, and wonder. 

eight photos of barks of trees in Central Park that look like parts of human bodies are arranged on shelvesWhile Walking, Central Park, 2020 by Alice Momm. Photo by Daniel Avila/NYC Parks

Sometimes the photo is itself the artwork, and sometimes it inspires further exploration. To see more photos, please visit @alicemomm7468 on Instagram.

Vertical structures of weavings made from skeins of yarn, coffee cup sleeves, sticks and pine needles, bark and notesWeaving It All Together (Studio Scraps), 2019-2020 by Alice Momm. Photo by Daniel Avila/NYC Parks

This series of weavings grew out of the artist's reckoning with the piles of materials that had accumulated in her small, crowded Harlem studio as well as a larger examination of her carbon footprint and most minimal needs for art-making. Deciding that she could do better, Alice took stock of the piles and scraps in her studio (skeins of yarn, coffee cup sleeves, sticks and pine needles, bark and notes…) and wove them together, creating an amalgam of her life in the city.

Individual leaves and twigs on squares of white paper are arranged on shelves placed against a brown background made of paper.Gleaner’s Song The Ragged Beauty of Picked-Up Things, 2017-2020, by Alice Momm. Photo by Daniel Avila/NYC Parks

Alice shares a simple philosophy behind the compositions in Gleaner’s Song: The Ragged Beauty of Picked-Up Things (2017-2020). Each is made of one picked-up thing, one small sheet of paper, needle and thread, a little wire, and perhaps some paint. The artworks come to life based on these prescribed instructions: Pick up a scrap of a leaf or twig from the ground – the more raggedy the better. Look carefully. Find the beauty. Begin the conversation. Repeat.

Images of signposts in Central Park look like faces. They are strung together in a row on a wall to look like they are holding hands.Emotional Guardrails, 2020 by Alice MommPhoto by Daniel Avila/NYC Parks

On her walks, Alice started noticing faces within the wooden guardrails that line sections of Central Park’s main roadway. She began a photo essay of some of the more expressive ones, calling them “Emotional Guardrails.” In the Arsenal Gallery, they are connected in a group therapy support chain.

Above the exit sign at a doorway that leads to the stairs to the park, Alice pieced together twigs and cardboard scraps to make an Enter sign.Photo by Daniel Avila/NYC Parks

Above the Gallery's entrance, there is a standard EXIT sign, marking the way out of the gallery. Alice created her own directional in response, pieced together from twigs and cardboard scraps to invite viewers to “ENTER” back into Central Park after leaving the exhibition. Alice’s hope is that they will take with them the inspiration to be fully present to the possibilities of beauty that exist all around us.

View from the gallery floor of Alice's artwork on display on three walls. To the left, an arrangement of cardboard looks like tree barks, at the center wall leaves arranged on paper is displayed on a brown wall, and to the right are weavings arranged as structures.Photo by Daniel Avila/NYC Parks

This exhibition is Alice’s love song to NYC’s parks and Central Park in particular. The parks have always been a refuge and offered a nurturing and dynamic pathway for her to live in this city.

Her art is made of the humblest materials; she offers these pieces as an invitation to see the possibilities of beauty all around us, in the clouds in the sky, dandelions in sidewalk cracks, the buzz of insects, and pigeon’s strut. We will once again be able to stroll through the parks with an even greater appreciation of the beauty that has always been available to us and to the importance of living in harmony with each other and the natural world.

For sales inquiries or more information, please contact Senior Public Art Coordinator Elizabeth Masella at Elizabeth.Masella@parks.nyc.gov.

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