Two if By Hand (Chambers Street Scene) - CODAworx

Two if By Hand (Chambers Street Scene)

Client: Terrain Biennial Newburgh

Location: Newburgh, NY, United States

Completion date: 2021

Artwork budget: $2,500

Project Team

Site, Property of 29 Chambers

John Delk


Site, Property at 30 Chambers

Thomas Burr Dodd

Rip Rap, LLC


(Installed as part of the Terrain Biennial Newburgh, in the fall of 2021) Originally, this was conceived as a simple conclusion to a love letter to the city of Newburgh; the ending of a note to the people and buildings in this town. I looked around my studio and found the rough ingredients for two large Xs and two large Os: four Ionic columns found at a re-use warehouse in the Hudson Valley, and a pair of steel rings salvaged from a distillery in Kings County. These are the kinds of things I have at-hand, apparently. At some point, the idea assumed some glitches. The round pieces, of a scale smaller than the straight elements, found each other and surrendered their identity as individual letters. Together, they formed a symbol of spectacles. An old-fashioned sign. The columns, already somewhat overdetermined, cloaked themselves in funereal black which did nothing to hide them or conceal their regal dignity. Mops were introduced to tidy things up a bit. They did nothing of the sort. Instead, the shaggy manes confused the whole venture, implying a mess that must be cleaned up. The mess is not entirely visible. The glasses now loom above this parking lot like the yes of Dr. Eckleburg over a valley of ashes some sixty miles south and a hundred years past.


The goalposts ffor this project shifted continually until only a week before installation. The Terrain Biennial matches property owners with artists, and the directors of the project went through four different possible sites before I took matter into my own hands and contacted two people I know who own buildings across the street from each other. The form of the project followed naturally and became a response to the city in general. I ultimately let the process take a large part in determining the final design; it was an exercise in making do.


The two property owners gave me a fairly free license to do as I pleased, but I made certain we had unanimity at every step. The entire project was installed by me alone, which was necessary due to the small amount of capital provided by the organizing body. No complaints, though. None.