Following a year of isolation and social restriction, the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative has invited artist Aaron Asis to create a site-specific installation designed to honor and celebrate the multifaceted history of the Naval Cemetery Landscape at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The installation, entitled ‘Layers’ is designed in two parts to showcase the past and remind us of the layered history beneath our feet — and to allow us to contemplate our layered past, to inform our shared future.

“It’s too easy to ignore the past and it’s far easier to look ahead than to look behind — but there is much we can learn from our history, we just need to pause long enough to consider its impact and appreciate its value,” says Aaron Asis.

Along the entrance facade a large-scale mural displays the pre-development landscape surrounding the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Naval Cemetery Landscape site. Inside, hundreds of stripes along the boardwalk evoke the history of the earth beneath it. Footprints left along these striped paths honor the lives historically laid to rest on these grounds. These temporary installations are designed to acknowledge our human impact on the land and to inspire public attention, inquiry, and contemplation into the layered history of this site, the city, and our lives.

“The year-round beauty and unique history of the Naval Cemetery Landscape make it a particularly inspiring venue for site-specific art,” Terri Carta, Executive Director of the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative, notes. “Aaron Asis’ latest piece, Layers, interprets the site’s topography and natural history while inviting visitors to reflect on its cultural significance and meaning for the communities that interact with it.”

Layers art installation at the Brooklyn Navy Yard

The Naval Cemetery Landscape is located in the southeast corner of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which was established on the shores of Wallabout Bay and was America’s premier naval shipbuilding facility from 1801 to 1966.  Prior to the NCL, the Brooklyn Naval Hospital Cemetery was an active burial site from 1831 to 1910. In 1926, the Navy relocated individuals buried in the cemetery to Cypress Hills National Cemetery. However, in the 1990s, a series of archaeological investigations concluded that hundreds of burials were unaccounted for and are potentially still at the site.  

“Art has a profound ability to inspire and engage and ‘Layers’ is a public invitation to explore a unique New York City history. We should all take a moment to consider the significance of this history and contemplate how understanding our past can improve our lives,” Asis continues.

Today the Naval Cemetery Landscape is a project of Brooklyn Greenway Initiative to create a place for retreat and remembrance while honoring its rich layers of natural and cultural history — without disturbing the hallowed ground.  ‘Layers’ is currently on display at the Naval Cemetery Landscape at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in Brooklyn NY — through October 2021.

Next, check out 14 new public art installations currently up in New York City!