Built on the Dominican Republic theme of nine days of public mourning, nine artists and coordinator Claudia Paraschiv have created artistic tables around the fountain in Chelsea Square focused on freeing the community from the dire days of COVID-19.
And while they are artistic and creative – people can sit on them.
The tables came out of a previous idea where Paraschiv was going to be working with Chelsea Prospers to create a public art piece interactively this summer. However, with COVID-19 restrictions, that became impossible. However, Chelsea Prospers Director Mimi Graney wondered if she might be interested in creating tables to go around the fountain.
“As we had conversations about what Chelsea had been through and the enormous amount of need, loss and effort experienced by everyone, we started talking about public mourning and how it is part of the culture in Latin America,” said Paraschiv. “It isn’t much of a thing in the U.S., but it is in Latin America. There, they have the ‘Nine Days of Mourning.’ The tradition in the Dominican Republic had a very specific way of mourning. It had a meaning for all nine days, and the nine tables around the fountain are designed around that tradition and theme.”
The project is called ‘Nuestra Mesa.’
The nine sets were placed around the fountain in Chelsea Square and will be both functional as places to sit with a friend and inspirational as an art installation for the contemplation of this challenging time of loss for the community.
The nine artists were tasked with expressing the nine days of mourning – grieving (crying and reminiscing), silence (thinking and reverence) and release (accepting and separating) – through nature imagery. Most of the artists are from Chelsea and are from a wide range of ages and backgrounds.
Artist Anna Dugan reflected on her piece ‘Like a bear in the ocean.’
“I love swimming in the ocean,” she said. “I love the feeling of diving under and taking a moment to be suspended underwater in the gentle, but powerful hush. It’s like being on another planet, a different world. My portion of the project was the silent reverence and reflecting portion of grief in connection to the ocean. When I’m grieving I feel so disoriented and disconnected to myself and my surrounding. I feel like a bear in the ocean. I’m taking in the silence and the pressure of my solitude, but I don’t belong here. I am only a visitor. And I will eventually move on, but for the moment I am allowing myself to reflect in the quiet pain of my grief before I come up again for air.”
The tables were created by a local metal fabricator, Paraschiv said, and were placed around the fountain on Aug. 1.
“The idea is to take these somewhat private events and make them a little more public as the community grapples with what it has experienced,” she said.
She said the creations run from very professional to a skilled amateur.
“The works the artists did are very thoughtful,” she said. “It runs the gamut from more polished and refined to a little more amateur in technique, but that’s ok and intentional. We wanted a spectrum of talent and capabilities to be inclusive and to go back to the theme of mourning. You’re part of the collective.”
The individual painters are as follows, with the title of their pieces. (An asterisk designates a Chelsea resident):
RAIN: Yenny Hernandez
FALLING LEAVES: Max Pro*
WAVES: Keshia De Leon;
CLOUDS: Trippy Landia (Giselle Builes)
SOIL: Aliyah Saldana-Oswald*
OCEAN: Anna Dugan
SUNSHINE: Nirvanna Lildharrie*
NEW TREE: Nelson Saldana*
WIND: Marianne Ramos*