‘Mother Earth’ Sculpture at Rockaway Beach

Kris Perry is a sculptor who thinks big – conceptually and physically.

Case in point: His 35-foot-tall “Mother Earth” installation at Rockaway Beach in Queens. It’s designed to bring people together, outside the realm of politics – and encourage them to consider their natural surroundings.

“Conversations about the environment and global warming can be divisive,” he says. “I wanted to find some far-back baseline where we can connect together and share, even if we don’t agree on politics.”

His studio is near the homes of Frederick Church and Thomas Cole from the Hudson River School of painters. Like Emerson and Thoreau earlier, their work during the mid-19th century expressed awe at the beauty of nature – and suggested evidence of a greater power

“Those paintings were about a supreme power and looking at a moral compass as what guides us,” he says. “I liked the idea of looking at this sculpture as a broad timeline of what can bring us together,”

He looked also to symbolism in religious architecture, including Stonehenge, the Mosque at Djenne, and the Cathedral at Cologne. Rothko’s Chapel in Houston, too, was a spiritual reference point.

“I wanted to look at where we are and as more than one person and how art can have a language for that,” he says. “It’s about commonality and saying nature is really important and the environment is essential for our lives.”

To the east, his sculpture overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. But the vista that Perry finds most revealing is straight up, from below the Corten structure. “There’s the rawness of the material, and the legs – and then how it relates to the natural environment?” he says. “It points up to the sky, but you can walk under it – so it’s about the earth and the sky in the place where you might be standing.”

He says wants his sculpture to take people out of their current moment in time.

Given today’s political climate, he may be onto something.

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