J'Adore: Louise Nevelson in Manhattan

In describing how she explored the art and persona of the great sculptor Louise Nevelson, Mercedes Ruehl notes

“This was the first place I came,” Mercedes Ruehl says, looking around the small white pentagonal chapel that Louise Nevelson designed for St. Peter’s Church in Midtown Manhattan. She is describing how she prepared to portray Nevelson onstage in “Edward Albee’s Occupant.”


“It has a kind of teeming silence,” she says. She gets up and walks to the relief on the east wall. “This was the piece that fascinated me.” The Frieze of the Apostles. “They were fishermen, so I see some imagery that relates to that. Boats maybe, and I saw shores — it’s like Manhattan and New Jersey — but maybe the Sea of Galilee.”

Sculpture entitled “Dawn Shadows” by Louise Nevelson in the atrium lobby of the Madison Plaza building at the corner of Madison and Wells Streets in downtown Chicago, Illinois.

I’ve been passionate about Louise Nevelson’s sculpture since arriving in New York. Her work always captivated my senses, in terms of its sheer size and power, and also Nevelson’s primal, archetypal configurations … many of them inspired by her love of pre-Columbian art. Nevelson’s work speaks to our unconscious mind, in the spirit of Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung.  

I just learned that Louise Nevelson has her own sculpture park, not far from me in Manhattan.  This is why I write for you, dear readers. I educate myself in the process.  

Louise Nevelson Plaza on Maiden Lane is the first public place to be named after an artist in New York. Nevelson was an eccentric, exotic soul whose work can be found all over the city. Most of her sculpture is “found” art: bits of wood and metal painted black and bound together. This park is all hers: Shadows and Flags, (1977) 40 feet high, is made up of 7 sculptures of Cor-ten steel painted black. 

Stopping in to see Nevelson’s park photos in wallyg’s Financial District photostream, I’m off on another memory tangent … not only of the Wall Street area … but of Sept. 11, 2001. Those photos don’t just grab my emotions … they tackle them, causing me to pause, reflect, then swallow back the tears. Thank you, Wally. This is one pain always with me, living here at the WTC site. I came to be part of the rebirth, but I keep a lovely memorial of photos and candles I bought in Europe days before Sept. 11 … a 70’s, retro shot of the WTC, my great buddy The Statue of Liberty, and a Parisian bicycle with a heart—shaped wheel. Quite a combination, and they are now among my most treasured possessions.

Wallyg has devoted a lot of time, writing about the history behind his photos. I now know the details of how the Charging Bull came to reside at Bowling Green.  

Returning to the great Louise Nevelson, here’s the Flickr photostream of her work. And to those of us who think that we’re too old to become creative … I just read that Nevelson earned no steady income from her art until she was in her 60s. Amazing!

Ah yes, Albee’s play “Occupant” has been given a longer run and yours truly has a ticket.