Photo by Timothy Schenck courtesy The High Line
A new, large-scale mural installation is set to be unveiled at the High Line at the start of March. The piece, which will be on view near West 22nd Street, will feature three colorful interpretations of the Statue of Liberty accompanied by the words “I Lift My Lamp Beside the Golden Door.” The painting is an ode to the final line from Emma Lazarus’s poem “The New Colossus,” which is engraved on the bronze plaque mounted inside the statue’s pedestal on Liberty Island.
The piece is created by artist Dorothy Iannone, an American-born artist who now lives and works out of Berlin, Germany. Iannone, who is 85 this year, has long been known for creating works that focus on highlighting female sexuality. She celebrates the symbolism and iconology of femininity, with works inspired by Egyptian frescoes, Byzantine mosaics, and ancient fertility statues. Her progressive and sometimes radical art experienced much censorship beginning in the 1960’s, but gained popularity starting in the early 2000’s.
The installation of this piece comes at an interesting time in American history. The High Line originally commissioned Dorothy Iannone in 2014, prior to the attempt to re-appropriate the Statue of Liberty as a symbol of the United States’ openness to those seeking freedom.
In recent months, President Trump announced his support for the RAISE act, also known as “Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act.” The proposed bill would prioritize English-speaking, high skill immigrants and limit the entry of all other immigrants. The bill raised many questions about its constitutionality, including calling into the question the symbolism behind the Statue of Liberty, which stands against the limitations of immigrants allowed in America. In response, a White House aide stated that the symbolism of Lady Liberty doesn’t represent the country’s values on U.S Immigration.
This kind of reasoning and contesting of the poem attached to the statue has been used in the country’s recent polarizing debate about immigration. Interestingly enough, each statue painted in Iannone’s piece is shedding a single tear.
“My first Statue of Liberty painting in 1976 presented a mighty woman with a torch who had, historically, in the feminine spirit of generosity and compassion, lifted her lamp before the golden door and offered welcome to the poor and tired of the world, yearning to breathe free,” says Iannone. “And now, some forty years later, Friends of the High Line has given me the privilege of enhancing an iconic public space. This time, my Liberties no longer stress their gender, because the times and our deepest needs have changed. Now, responding to the violence or indifference toward the pain of the others, and to the lack of recognition of their humanity, my Liberties cry.”
Dorothy Iannone’s mural along the elevated park is set to be installed in March 2018, with a goal to remind viewers of the compassion and freedom Lady Liberty encapsulates.