Video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_SpwUs7b9U&t=9s
One of the joys of walking or biking on this Island of Manhattan is coming across art in unexpected places. Just south of the George Washington Bridge, built in the river are stones stacked precariously on top of one another, each in the shape of a human figure with a stone for a body, a head, and topped by a hat. As I was passing this area by bike, one day they were gone, all had been toppled by a vandal. There was one remaining figure with someone taking a photo of it. As I was passing the photographer, we made eye contact. He had a quizzical look. I stopped and approached him, something I had never done when riding a bike. We will call this tourist Michael. I told him that just a few weeks ago there were about 300 of these stone figures built by the artist Uliks Gryka. He told me he is a tourist from New Orleans enjoying the city. I tried to find the pictures of the stone sculptures when they were all standing but could not find them in the thousands of photos on my smart phone. He thanked me for the explanation, and I continued on my ride. Now as I watched this ruined sculpture garden pass by what feelings would it bring up; would I still smile as I pass by or would it just be a blank nothingness.
As I continued I spotted a tall gentlemen standing on the rocks rebuilding the figures. I again stopped and approached him. It was Uliks Gryka, the artist who was now reconstructing the figures. As we chatted, Michael came and joined in the conversation. Uliks told us he was rebuilding the figures. He would start with just a handful and leave them to see if they remained. It would take him about a week to complete all 300 figures. Some of the stones he moved weigh up to 300 pounds. This is an art installation with a workout. While not a sanctioned art work, he did check with the local authorities. As each figure is in the Hudson River it is not the property of the city. Rather it is under the jurisdiction of the coastguard and built close enough to the shore so as not to pose a navigation hazard. This beautiful place with these figures, he explained, are being used as a resting place for the ashes of loved ones. He went on to tell us that the passengers on the tour boats peer at them from afar. As the tour operators could not explain what these figures were he had had made contact with them so they could say something about them.
The visual pleasure it gave to passersby and people on tour boats made it difficult to understand the need for someone to topple them. It would seem if you cannot leave your legacy by building then leave your legacy by destroying. But I was heartened by the fact that not only was Uliks rebuilding them but some cyclists seeing him struggle with a 300 pound stone stepped into the water to assist. As we parted Michael said “the two of you just made my day.” Michael, you and Uliks, just made my day.