Green-Wood Cemetery’s first-ever artist in residence to open sculpture installation in the catacombs

April 28, 2022

Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery announced on Thursday the opening of a new art installation created by the 184-year-old institution’s first-ever artist in residence. Located within the property’s catacombs, a portion of the cemetery that is usually off-limits to the public, Heidi Lau’s Gardens as Cosmic Terrains consists of sculptures that hang from skylights. The installation opens to the public on Saturday, May 7, and will be on view through July 3.

Image courtesy of Heidi Lau; the Green-Wood Cemetery

The installation features “highly textured” ceramic sculptures that hang from the catacomb’s skylights and are inspired by funerary items like urns, bells, and “spirit vessels.” Lau was also heavily inspired by her research into the structure of traditional Chinese gardens, whose layouts often act as a “metaphor for time, space, and our place in the cosmos.”

Lau’s work is frequently inspired by themes of nostalgia, memory, Taoist practices, and the history of Macau, where she spent her early years.

Image courtesy of Heidi Lau; the Green-Wood Cemetery

Lau was selected from nearly 1,000 other candidates who applied for Green-Wood’s first artist residency. She currently resides in the cemetery’s landmarked Fort Hamilton Gatehouse where she creates her work and has expansive access to the property’s grounds and services.

“My artistic journey was shaped by the confines of The Green-Wood Cemetery in pragmatic and metaphysical ways,” Lau said. “The installation was inspired by long, solitary walks that I took around the grounds of the Cemetery with a Taoist concept in mind that signifies the convergence of wandering, play, and introspection, which together invite a reawakening of self-knowledge.”

Image courtesy of Heidi Lau; the Green-Wood Cemetery

To reach the cemetery’s catacombs, guests must take a 15-minute stroll through Green-Wood’s historic paths and landscape. Guests can enjoy the scenery and beautiful nature on the way, such as the cemetery’s renowned Japanese cherry blossom trees.

“It has been thrilling to see how Heidi Lau has developed her work for over a year at Green-Wood,” Harry Weil, Director of Public Programs and Special Projects at the Green-Wood Cemetery, said.

“Her ability to fuse together questions of the cosmic and spiritual with the mundane is astounding and inspiring to anyone who will visit the Catacombs.”

Gardens as Cosmic Terrains will be on view from May 7 to July 3, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Entry is free, but the cemetery asks guests to consider donating to The Green-Wood Historic Fund.

The cemetery selected artist Rowan Renee as the 2022 artist-in-residence, during which they will have access to the archives and collections of the cemetery to create a “body of work focused on themes of ritual care, death, ancestry, and the afterlife.”


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