Fred Wilson, Mother

Mother by Fred Wilson sits in the arrivals and departures hall as a set of 12 globes suspended in a three-story atrium alongside 24 six-foot black drips. Despite supply chain issues, Mother has been progressively installed at the airport to comment on the beauty and fragility of the earth, as well as its complex history. The globes feature black oceans and no country names, alongside an absence of borders, as a reflection of how people get wrapped up in their relationships with others without seeing the larger picture. The sculpture’s black drips, which are made of glass, can be interpreted as representing ink, tar, and even oil, which denote histories grouped with the Black experience.

The many globes and black drips reveal the significance of ecology and preservation of the earth. Wilson has never hand-painted his works until this one, and he decided that all globes should be hung on different axes so each provides a different perspective of the earth. Wilson, a Bronx native, stresses through his art that changes in context create changes in meaning, playing with light, sound, and unconventional pairings to comment on issues of race and power often absent from museums. He represented the U.S. at the 2003 Venice Biennale and became a Whitney Museum trustee in 2008.