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Central Park

Claire Lesteven's “Sunbeam Dispatches” At Arsenal Gallery

Friday, September 12, 2008
No. 96

From September 10 through October 30, the Arsenal Gallery in Central Park will showcase Sunbeam Dispatches, unique photographs of Central Park and other New York City parks by Claire Lesteven. The exhibit features Ms. Lesteven’s romantic and haunting panoramas made with her homemade camera obscuras. Cylindrical in shape, the cameras have several apertures (pinholes) that create 360 degree views from the light that shines through them onto photosensitive paper. The resulting photographs reveal the expanse of the site where the photos are taken as well as introducing what appear to be abstract elements. Lesteven, who was unofficially Central Park’s artist-in-residence this summer, set up shop in a water tank in the park. The cedar tank doubles as a giant camera and a darkroom.

Lesteven biked to various locations in the park with a smaller camera, and also captured sweeping views of the park from the roof of the Arsenal. For the artist, the idea of a refuge in nature in the middle of an urban city is at the heart of her exploration. “After concentrating on urban and industrial environments, I am particularly drawn to the specificity of city parks as a subject, because they literally provide a wraparound environment within the urban context,” she said.

The title Sunbeam Dispatches refers to the rays of sunlight that enter the hole in the camera obscura, the vehicles that carry the image to its destination. Lesteven feels that the presence of the hole in the image is a very integral part of her work, both formally and in terms of seeing where the images flowed onto the paper. The "dispatches" that are created are the images made, like that of a news reporter, “in the field.”

Ms. Lesteven is from France and is now based in Brooklyn, New York. She studied at the School of Fine Arts in Nantes, France. She has exhibited at various venues in Belgium, France, and the United States, including Socrates Sculpture Park and Snug Harbor Cultural Center, sites within the New York City Parks system.

The Arsenal Gallery wishes to thank the Cultural Services of the French Embassy for a grant that made the exhibition possible, the Central Park Conservancy for allowing Lesteven to set up shop in the park and making her feel welcome, and to Veuve Clicquot Champagne and Compucolor for their generous donations.

Additional images available upon request.

About the Arsenal Gallery
The Arsenal Gallery is dedicated to examining themes of nature, urban space, wildlife, in the context of New York City parks and their history. The Gallery is located on the third floor of the Park’s headquarters in Central Park, on Fifth Avenue at 64th Street. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Gallery closed on holidays. Admission is free.

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