Department of Cultural Affairs NYCulture City of New York Department of Cultural Affairs NYCulture City of New York

Percent for Art

   Carl Cheng

Shadow Garden and Community Island Pond, 2001, Steel, wood


Shadow Garden and Community Island Pond

Completion Date:



Steel, wood


20' x 25'


Wall Street Esplanade and Ferry Pier (Pier 11)


Gouverneur Lane and South Street


Smith-Miller and Hawkinson Architects and Judith Heintz Landscape Architecture

Sponsor Agency:

Department of Transportation

Design Agency:

Economic Development Corporation


Both projects portray water reflections of anonymous faces of New Yorkers abstracted by the natural conditions of the East River. New York City's newest Island, Community Island is a 60-foot x 60-foot section of the end of the Department of Transportation's ferry pier and is approached via a pedestrian bridge over a 10-foot water gap. A 20-foot circular reflection pond is located in the center of the island with seating around it. The lunchtime crowds of Lower Manhattan office workers are already swarming to the island.
The facial images, mounted on a 30-foot diameter canopy grid over the pond are reflected and distorted by the river turbulence. Viewing the reflections reveals not only the subtleties of the changing East River tidal movements, wind and sunlight conditions, but an occasional floating log, dead fish or river debris that can be trapped in the pond until the next low tide. Ideal viewing conditions are cloudy or overcast days with minimum wind velocity.

About the Artist...
Carl Cheng's career has been marked by a fascination with physical phenomena such as water and light quality. In addition to Shadow Garden and Community Island , Cheng recently exhibited another commissioned work, "Friendship Acrobatic Troupe" water sculpture, at the Sony Exploration Museum, Beijing, China, 2000. During the 1980s and early 1990s, the artist worked to create "Water Lens Tower," Kaiser-Permanente Hospital, Los Angeles, CA, and "Seattle Underwater" for the Arts Commission and Water Department, Seattle, WA. Cheng's solo work has been exhibited internationally in New York City, California, China, Japan, and England. He has received numerous awards and grants including the Los Angeles Business Council Beautification Award for his 1996 MTA Station project and the 1990 Getty Visual Arts Fellowship. Cheng has been an ardent supporter of public art. The artist published an editorial in The Los Angeles Times (7312000) entitled "Public Art: More Than a Pretty Distraction." The article was both a defense of recent L.A. MTA projects and also an exploration of the challenges and overwhelming rewards of public art. Cheng wrote in the article:

Artist Quote...
"For the public artist, the first requirement is that he or she must embrace the public and acknowledge the site even before creating the artwork. It becomes the context, and for me the inspiration, for the artwork. Countless 'plop art' and 'turds-in-the-square' artworks reveal what happens when an artist ignores this requirement." -- Carl Cheng, 2000