Fascinated with fantasy, fairy tales and theatrical settings, Rachel Feinstein tackles her first public art project with her largest sculptural works to date. Ranging from 8 to 26 feet tall, her three architectural follies were commissioned as site-specific projects for Madison Square Park and were inspired by such diverse sources as Fellini’s films, the Ballets Russes, Piranesi’s etchings of fanciful ruins and Meissen porcelains. Her structures evoke empty stage sets that were left in storage too long.
Feinstein began with sketches on paper that were cut out to make maquettes. These tabletop models were then disassembled, digitally enlarged and fabricated as powder-coated, contoured aluminum panels covered with vinyl decals to re-create the artist’s graphite outlines. Assembled on-site, with their proplike qualities clearly visible from the back, Feinstein’s ghostly pavilions seem to pop up from the surrounding landscape like 3-D illustrations from a giant children’s book.
The tallest sculpture, Flying Ship, rises into the branches of three neighboring trees. It’s based on a 17th-century tale about a fool who attempts a journey to the moon. The smallest piece, Rococo Hut, alludes to Petit Trianon at Versailles where the doomed Bourbon monarch, Marie Antoinette, liked to play dress-up as a humble shepherdess. But it’s Cliff House, the grandest of the three follies, that takes viewers on a trip to the dark side with its haunting evocation of a ruin engulfed by nature, creating an overarching metaphor, perhaps, for Feinstein’s mirages brought to life.—Paul Laster