A Fountain for Survivors
Duffy Square (Broadway at 46th Street)
A Fountain for Survivors is open and accessible daily from 10am to midnight.
Building on a body of work artist Pamela Council refers to as ‘Fountains for Black Joy,’ A Fountain for Survivors is both an ode to the ways in which we maintain ourselves and an exuberant life-affirming monument for survivors of all kinds. Adorned with a handmade mosaic of hundreds of thousands of acrylic fingernails, a massive cocoon-like structure houses a tiered water fountain inside a warm, welcoming, and enveloping space. Council’s largest public artwork to date, A Fountain for Survivors will be on view and accessible to all in Times Square’s most iconic plaza, Duffy Square, from October 14 to December 8, 2021.
Mirroring the spectacular and vibrant vernacular of Times Square itself, Council’s maximalist installation features glimmering fingernails, kinetic illumination, and swaths of bold colors across the extraordinary 18-foot tall carapace — the artwork’s protective, hooded outer shell. Meanwhile, the intimate interior hosting the artist-designed water feature welcomes visitors with a range of sensory experiences including heat, sound, and scent. Council envisions this fountain as an offering to Survivors.
At the lucky hours of 11:11am and 5:55pm, public art ambassadors will be handing out a limited number of Wishing Wafers — soluble coin-shaped wafers scented with the essential oils of Florida Water, a cologne known for its purifying and healing properties. Unwrap the golden foil, toss a wafer into the water and make a fizzy wish!
A Fountain for Survivors is a sheltered fountain in an iconic public space. Adorned and protected by a carapace of hundreds of thousands of acrylic fingernails, this fountain is my dedication and offering to Survivors and is open to the public that is outside in Times Square. On the topic of definition, Survivors know who they are; no one else can proclaim that for you. Conceived and created during a time when we are socially distanced, my goal with this work is to make a temporary monument that mirrors the experiences of masking & interiority that many have known, and which have now become a part of all of our lives. I started working with acrylic fingernails, that Black femme craft and protective style, over 13 years ago, and they have since become ubiquitous. So, I am most excited about the expressions of imagination that this work already has and will continue to inspire.”
— Pamela Council
As with much of their work, Council’s installation creates a distinct dynamic that treads the line between the familiar and the unexpected. Defined by exuberant color, elaborate adornments, and an Afro-Americana camp aesthetic the artist calls BLAXIDERMY, Council’s ‘Fountains for Black Joy’ explore nostalgia and grooming rituals that are both personal and political and are intended to make space for healing and pleasure. In previous works, water is replaced in fountains with bubbling bright red soda and cascades of Luster's Pink Lotion.
“Fountains have this way of working in culture as meeting places, as gathering places, and places where people make wishes, giving people this ebullient sense of hope,” Council told Artnet News. “I hope people feel that, and are also inspired by the imaginative ways that I use materials.”
Council and Times Square Arts have presented two events in conjunction with A Fountain for Survivors:
November 12, 9pm, Duffy Square
In conjunction with Pamela Council’s sculptural installation and their Midnight Moment across the billboards of Times Square, Carolines on Broadway and Times Square Arts teamed up to present a night of live comedy, music, and performance. Free and open to all, and timed to coincide with New York Comedy Festival, the event featured Becca O'Neal, Derek Gaines, RaFia Santana, and Nelson Bandela, with host Chanel Ali.
Is Your House in Order?
November 16, 6pm, virtual
Pamela Council joined estate lawyer Lori Anne Douglass, Esq. in conversation about legacy and estate planning for Black families. They discussed Council's artwork Velvet Will, and created Council's last will and testament together on Zoom — all while providing helpful guidance for workshop participants on how you can create your own will and get your house in order.
Credits and Acknowledgements
A Fountain for Survivors is commissioned by Times Square Arts with generous support provided by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and in part through support from the New York State Council on the Arts and public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Programming for this project is made possible in part by the New York City Artist Corps.
Thank you to UOVO for the transport, art handling, and storage of the work.
Agger Fish Building in the Brooklyn Navy Yard was donated by Marc Agger for fabrication support.
Thank you to Denny Dimin Gallery.
Fabrication & Installation Direction by Art Domantay
Fabrication & Installation Management by Jeremy Gender
Acrylic-nail assembly leadership by Marie Ucci & Jacob Olmedo
Painting & Murals by Larry Oraa
Sound Design by Reid Farrington
Special Thanks to Candy Truong and Echiverri & Co.
Special Thanks to Marc Agger for production support
Project management and fabrication by Powerhouse Arts and Spaeth Design
Fabrication & Installation from Powerhouse Arts by Vaneik Echeverria, Roberto Flores, Aaron Gerth, Jhon Marin, Leia-lee Doran, Michael Umesi, Zeelie Brown, Gabriella Pelkey, Liridona Seferi, Chris Pleasant, Kristy Barbour, Devon Petrovits, Ingri Von Bergen, Mariana Quintero, Nellie Davis, Kelsey Knight Mohr, Daniel Vissac, Daniel Quinn, Rodrigo Chazaro, Mike Cacciatore, Michael Wiernicki, Car'Millee John, Henry Culpepper, Peter Perry, Talya Brott, Andy Barrett, Eleanor Gonzalez, Julian Gonzalez, Christian Haye, Dave King, Jacques Agbobly, Kpiebom Kogda, Alexis Acevedo, Laura Serman, and Barbara Bowen
Fabrication & Installation from Spaeth Design by Quinn O'Sullivan, Jay Kim, Juan Hidalgo, Ramiro Marte, Arthur Mims, Brian Comisky, Candido Garcia, Mike Low, Matt Elliott, Nico Lopez, David Robertson, Olga Alexandrova, David Spaeth, and Sandy Spaeth
Accent nails designed and created in collaboration with Sonya Belakhlef and Imagine Uhlenbrook
Accent nail decoration by Sonya Belakhlef, Erica Hipp, Mamie Onishi, LaTasha Simmons, and Ada Yeung
Wishing Wafers designed in collaboration with Dezarae Brown of Body by Bee
Topiaries designed in collaboration with topiary artist Mike Gibson
Graphic design by Paulina Almira
Structural engineering by Arup
Special fabrication services by The Factory
ABOUT PAMELA COUNCIL
(b.1986 Southampton, New York, lives and works in New York City & Newark, NJ)
Pamela Council is a New York-based interdisciplinary artist creating fountains for Black joy. Guided by material, cultural, and metaphysical quests, Council’s practice embodies a darkly humorous, maximalist, and inventive Afro-Americana camp aesthetic called BLAXIDERMY. Through this lens, Council uses sculpture, print, design, architecture, writing, and performance to shed light on under-examined narratives and to make tributes, offerings, and dedications.
Council has created commissions, exhibitions, performances, or presentations for the New Museum for Contemporary Art, United States Library of Congress, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Studio Museum in Harlem, Nike, and MoCADA. Council has been Artist-in-Residence at MacDowell Colony, ISCP, Red Bull Arts, Bemis Center, Mass MoCA, and Wassaic Project. A recipient of the Joan Mitchell Painters and Sculptors Grant, Toby Devan Lewis Award, and Newark Creative Catalyst Award as a studio member of Project for Empty Space, Council holds a BA from Williams College and an MFA from Columbia University.
Photos courtesy of Michael Hull for Times Square Arts.