If you find yourself strolling through Brooklyn’s most unique cemetery this fall, you might encounter some unexpected surprises: compositions of found objects, historic artifacts and photographs are now dispersed through Green-wood, as part of its newly commissioned project, Among Trees and Stones: Walking Green-Wood, by Brooklyn-based artist Mathew Jensen.
Through his site-specific exhibition, Jensen encourages discovery and seeks to highlight the natural wonders of Green-wood, which is home to extraordinary works of 19th-century sculpture and architecture — not to mention thousands of historic figures. A special walking map, specifically designed by Jensen, is free for visitors to pick up and use on a self-guided exploration of Green-wood’s magical landscape, where they will follow winding trails, see grand memorials and walk alongside ice-age ponds.
Walking map. Image via Mathew Jensen.
Noteworthy sites along the way include a two-story “cabinet of curiosities” in the landmarked 19th-century Gate House on Fort Hamilton Parkway. Closed to the public for decades, the stunning Victorian structure was built in 1873, and features an old waiting room, which has been renovated as a gallery. It holds landscape paintings, photographs and artifacts from Green-Wood’s rarely seen (and very unknown) permanent collection.
In addition, visitors will also have the opportunity to see the building’s unfinished attic — a space that have never been open to the public beofre. Jensen’s photographs of Green-Wood’s beech trees will be presented together with books, found objects, and other specimens used by Green-Wood’s expert staff — from the preservationist and horticulturalist to the person in charge of arranging the formal flower arrangements.
Putting the project together required extensive research, which involved creating a photo archive of 1500 images and meeting with the archivists, historian, preservationist and horticulturalist. In describing his work, Jensen tells us:
“Everything I selected touches on the natural world in some way. And the creator of each object is buried at Green-Wood! The world of landscape design and landscape art are really intertwined in the late 1800s. Green-Wood paved the way for Central Park and other large cemeteries while also being part of the art world. Many famous (and unknown) landscape painters chose to be buried in the one landscape that looked like their paintings. So this ornate room of carved wood, stained glass, colorful tile, coffered ceilings, is now a cabinet of curiosities to landscape: from Hudson River School paintings to Polaroids of flowering trees taken by the grounds supervisor, drawings, etchings and dozens of other things.”
“Green-Wood’s origins in the rural cemetery movement remind us that Green-Wood was created to forge a bond between the natural world and the memories of those who have gone before us,” said Richard J. Moylan, President of Green-Wood. “Green-Wood is a natural environment for all city dwellers. Jensen’s exhibition helps us appreciate and reconsider the importance of nature itself within the Cemetery.”
Among Trees and Stones: Walking Green-Wood at the Fort Hamilton Gate House is free and open Saturdays and Sundays from September 23, 2017 – November 26, 2017 from 12:00 – 4:00 PM or by appointment (contact the Green-Wood Historic Fund at 718-201-3071 or [email protected]). As part of the project, Jensen will also lead guided walks through the Cemetery (from 12:00 – 3:00pm on Saturdays, September 23rd, October 21st, and November 18th).
Next, check out the Top 10 Secrets of the Green-wood Cemetery in NYC.