Based on a body of work that artist Pamela Council calls “Fountains for Black Joy”, A fountain for the survivors is both an ode to the way we maintain ourselves and an exuberant monument that affirms the lives of survivors of all kinds. Adorned with a hand-made mosaic of hundreds of thousands of acrylic nails, a massive cocoon-shaped structure houses a tiered water fountain within a warm, welcoming and enveloping space. The Council’s largest public artwork to date, A fountain for the survivors will be visible and accessible to all in Time Square’s most iconic plaza, Duffy Square, from October 7 to December 8, 2021.
Reflecting the spectacular and vibrant vernacular of Times Square itself, the Council’s maximalist installation features glistening nails, kinetic lighting and stripes of vivid color on the extraordinary 18-foot-tall carapace – the protective outer shell at cap of the work. Meanwhile, the intimate interior housing the artist-designed water feature welcomes visitors with a range of sensory experiences including warmth, sound, and scent. The Council sees this fountain as an offering to the Survivors.
A fountain for the survivors is a fountain housed in an iconic public space. Adorned and protected by a shell of hundreds of thousands of acrylic nails, this fountain is my dedication and offering to Survivors and is open to the public outside Times Square. In terms of definition, Survivors know who they are; no one else can claim it for you. Designed and created at a time when we are socially distant, my goal with this work is to create a temporary monument that reflects the experiences of masking and interiority that many have experienced and which are now part of all of our lives. I started working with acrylic nails, this artisanal and protective style of black women, over 13 years ago, and they have since become ubiquitous. So I am very excited about the expressions of imagination that this work already has and will continue to inspire. “
– Pamela’s tip
As with much of their work, Council’s installation creates a distinct dynamic that draws the line between the familiar and the unexpected. Defined by exuberant colors, elaborate adornments, and an African-American camp aesthetic that the artist calls BLAXIDERMY, the Council’s “Fountains for Black Joy” explore nostalgia and grooming rituals that are both personal and political and aim to make room for healing and pleasure. In previous work, the water in the fountains is replaced by bubbling bright red soda and cascades of Luster’s Pink Lotion.
“Fountains have this way of working in culture as places to meet, gather, and place people to make wishes, giving people that bubbling sense of hope,” Council told Artnet News. “I hope people feel it and are also inspired by the imaginative ways I use materials.”
Throughout the duration of the exhibition for A fountain for the survivors, Times Square Arts and Council will activate sculpture and surrounding spaces with public programs including performances, workshops and special events. Details to come later!
Credits and acknowledgments
A fountain for the survivors commissioned by Times Square Arts with generous support from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund; and in part through support from the National Endowment for the Arts; the New York State Council for the Arts; and public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with city council.
A special thank you to KISS Products for their generous in-kind donation of hundreds of thousands of artificial nails to this project.
The world’s largest manufacturer and distributor of professional-grade nail products, KISS offers easy-to-use all-in-one kits so consumers can DIY and get professional-quality results right at home. The extensive line and collections of the KISS brand include press and stick nails, manicure and pedicure tools, false eyelashes, cosmetics, styling tools and more.
Agger Fish Building in the Brooklyn Navy Yard was generously donated by Marc Agger for manufacturing support.
Thanks to the Denny Dimin Gallery for the care, advocacy and support that make major public works of art like A fountain for the survivors possible.
Graphic design by Paulina Almira.
Manufactured by Spaeth Design and Powerhouse Arts.
Pamela Council is a New York-based interdisciplinary artist who creates fountains for black joy. Guided by material, cultural and metaphysical quests, Council’s practice embodies an African-American camp aesthetic with black humor, maximalist and inventive called BLAXIDERMY. Through this lens, Council uses sculpture, printing, design, architecture, writing and performance to shed light on under-examined narratives and to render homage, offerings and dedications.
The Council has created commissions, exhibitions, performances or presentations for the New Museum for Contemporary Art, the United States Library of Congress, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Studio Museum in Harlem, Nike and the MoCADA. The council has been artist in residence at MacDowell Colony, ISCP, Red Bull Arts, Bemis Center, Mass MoCA and Wassaic Project. Recipient of the Joan Mitchell Painters and Sculptors Fellowship, the Toby Devan Lewis Prize and the Newark Creative Catalyst Prize as a member of the Project for Empty Space studio, Council holds a BA from Williams College and an MA in Fine Arts. arts from Columbia University.