A profile of Nari Ward, whose approach to art-making evokes the folk and recycling traditions from Jamaica, where he was born, as well as the material textures of Harlem, where he has lived and worked since the 1990s.

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GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO 'NYC-ARTS.' I'M PAULA ZAHN AT THE TISH WNET STUDENT DWROES IN LINCOLN CENTER.

TONIGHT ON OUR PROGRAM WE WILL MEET ARTIST MARY WARD.

HIS INTRICATE AND IMMERSIVE INSTALLATIONS ARE CREATED BY COLLECTING ENORMOUS AMOUNTS OF EVERY DAY OBJECTS WHICH ARE THEN REPURPOSED IN VERY SURPRISING WAY.

HIS APPROACH TO ART MAKING EVOKES THE FOLK AND RECYCLING TRADITION FROM JAMAICA WHERE HE WAS BORN AS WELL AS THE MATERIAL TEXTURES OF HARLEM WHERE HE HAS LIVED AND WORKED SINCE THE 1990s.

MANY OF HIS EARLY SCULPTURES WERE CREATED BY USING BABY STROLLERS, FIRE HOSES, COOKING TRAYS, BOTTLES AND SHOPPING CARTS SCAVENGED FROM BUILDINGS AND STREETS IN HARLEM.

HE CHOSE THOSE OBJECTS FOR THEIR CONNECTION TO THE INDIVIDUAL LIVES AND STORIES OF HIS NEIGHBORHOOD.

IN HIS MORE RECENT WORK, WARD USES LANGUAGE AND VARIOUS SCULPTURAL FORMS TO REFLECT ON IMPORTANT ISSUES SUCH AS RACISM AND POWER, MIGRATION AND NATIONAL IDENTITY.

NYC-ARTS SPOKE WITH THE ARTIST AT THE MUSEUM DURING THE FIRST MUSEUM SURVEY OF HIS WORK IN NEW YORK.

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HOW DO YOU EMPOWER SOMETHING?

THE WAY TO EMPOWER AN OBJECT THAT IS SEEN AS BEING A DISCARD OR VALUELESS IS TO HAVE THE VIEWER TAKE A KIND OF AGENCY IN EXAMINING IT AND ALSO IN PUTTING THEIR IMAGINATION INTO WHAT IT CAN BECOME OR WHAT IT WANTS TO BE.

THAT SENSE OF MYSTERY OR ANTICAPATORY SPACE IS WHAT I PUSH FOR.

I NEVER WANT AN OBJECT TO BE DEFINED AS MUCH AS IT BECOMES A KIND OF SUPER SPACE OF EXPERIENCING SOMETHING THAT YOU RECOGNIZE BUT THEN THERE'S SO MUCH UNFAMILIARITY IN WHAT IT IS BECOMING OR HOW IT IS BEING USED THAT YOU REALIZE IT MIGHT HAVE ANOTHER KIND OF PURPOSE.

IT LIVES IN A DIFFERENT WORLD.

I WAS WALKING TO MY STUDIO AND I SAW THIS ONE BABY STROLLER THAT WAS SORT OF ABANDONED BABY STROLLER, PUSHED TO THE SIDE.

A LOT OF THOSE BABY STROLLERS WERE USED BY SO-CALLED MARGINALIZED INDIVIDUALS WHO WOULD USE THEM TO COLLECT BOTTLES AND CANS AND THEY WOULD KIND OF LEAVE THEM ONCE THEY MADE THEIR DEPOSIT OR DELIVERIES.

THAT MOMENT OF SEEING THAT ONE PUSHED TO THE FENCE, I FELT LIKE NOBODY WAS LOOKING AT THIS STORY THAT THIS THING HAD.

SO I DECIDED I NEED TO COLLECT MORE OF THEM.

THEY HAD THIS SENSE OF EMPTINESS FOR THEM, YOU KNOW, THIS SENSE THAT ANY MOMENT SOMETHING COULD HAPPEN WITH THEM.

IT WAS SOMEHOW MYSTERIOUS IN THAT WAY.

SOMEBODY TOLD ME ABOUT AN OLD FIREHOUSE IN HARLEM AND I PRESENTED AMAZING GRACE, THE BABY STROLLER PIECE, WITHIN THAT OLD FIREHOUSE SPACE.

SO THE FIREHOUSE REALLY BECAME MY STUDIO AND SORT OF LIVING SPACE.

WHY I REALLY WANTED TO DO IT IN HARLEM, IN THAT FIREHOUSE IS I THINK I REALLY WANTED TO HAVE A DIALOGUE WITH THE COMMUNITY.

THAT KIND OF HELP TO CEMENT WHAT MY INTENTION WOULD BE FOR, YOU KNOW, MANY YEARS TO COME, WHICH IS THE IDEA TO FIND OBJECTS CONNECTING KIND OF A FOLK SENSE TO THE REGULAR PERSON'S APPEARANCE.

HUNGER CRADLE IS ACTUALLY AN INSTALLATION THAT I WORKED WITH A FEW FRIENDS OF MINE.

I SAID, WELL, IF I COLLECTED THINGS FROM THE FIREHOUSE, THE THINGS THAT WERE LEFT THERE, IT WOULD BE THE LIFE OF THE FIREHOUSE THAT I CAN KIND OF SUSTAIN AND MAKE THIS OUT OF.

THAT'S WHAT HUNGER CRADLE BECAME.

THE IDEA IS THAT IT WOULD ACCRUE ADDITIONAL MATERIAL BASED ON WHERE IT WAS SHOWN, AND THE WORK KIND OF EXPANDED, GOES AND DEVOURS OTHER MATERIALS AS IT COMES IN.

HUNGER CRADLE IS REALLY AN IMPORTANT TITLE FOR ME BECAUSE IS IT HUNGER IN TERMS OF DEVOURING AND CONSUMING, BUT ALSO CRADLING IN TERMS OF NURTURE AND CARE.

IN THIS ITERATION IN THE NEW MUSEUM IS PROBABLY THE MOST AMBITIOUS PRESENTATION BECAUSE OF THE HEIGHT AND THE SHARED LENGTH OF THE SPACE, BUT WE HAD ENOUGH MATERIAL BECAUSE THE FIREHOUSE WAS NOT ONLY A FIREHOUSE BUT IT WAS ALSO A PIANO MOVING COMPANY.

SO THERE WAS JUST A LOT OF ROPE THAT WAS LEFT, AND SO THE ROPES ARE PART OF THE TEASE COMING FROM THE LIFE CYCLE OF THE BUILDING.

THE MATERIALS THAT I USE, IT IS SORT OF LIKE, OKAY, THIS THING IS IN SOME WAY MUNDANE AND NOW I HAVE TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO MAKE IT SPECIAL.

SO IT IS ALL ABOUT USING THE HAND AND TECHNIQUES TO PATTERNIZE IT, TO REALLY CREATE A RHYTHMIC DIALOGUE WITH SPACE AROUND THE THING.

YOU KNOW, HOW DOES THAT GET VISUALLY ANIMATED?

SO ALL OF THE KNOTTING AND TYING, NAILING AND SCRAPING, THAT'S ALL ABOUT PATTERNING MYSTERY INTO IT.

I WAS REALLY LOOKING AT RELIGIOUS SPACES.

I WAS THINKING ABOUT WITHIN THE CHURCH, OF HOW WHEN YOU WALK INTO A CHURCH YOU CAN FEEL THIS SENSE OF -- A KIND OF SPIRITUAL URGENCY, YOU KNOW, JUST THE WAY WITHIN THE SKYLIGHT, WITHIN THE STRUCTURE, WITHIN THE SILENCE OF THE SPACE, THE VOLUME OF THE SPACE.

SO I WAS THINKING ABOUT THE DOME AND HOW THE DOME WITHIN THE CHURCH IS KIND OF A METAPHOR FOR THE HEAVENS.

I THOUGHT, OKAY, I WANTED TO TRY TO CREATE A DOME OUT OF A MATERIAL THAT YOU TAKE FOR GRANTED, THAT YOU LITERALLY WALK ON.

SO IT IS SOMETHING THAT YOU WALK ON, BECOMES SOMETHING THAT YOU CORRELATE TO THE HEAVENS.

AND THEN WHEN I PULLED IT UP, I REALIZED THAT THIS KIND OF FORM, IT LOOKS LIKE AN ANGEL.

IT IS ANOTHER METAPHOR FOR THE HEAVENS AS WELL.

I SAID, WELL, MAYBE THAT'S WHAT THE PIECE NEEDS TO BE.

SYMBOLS FOR ME GET LAYERED WITH THE PERSON, AND THAT'S HOW -- I SORT OF WANT TO TAKE THE JOURNEY WITH THESE KIND OF GRAND ARCHETYPES, IS TO BRING IN THE PERSON, SORT OF FRACTURE IT AND THEN HOPEFULLY BRING ANOTHER KIND OF REFERENCE TO THE VIEWER.

THAT KIND OF DIAMOND PATTERN THAT SHOWS UP IN THE COPPER PIECES.

WHEN I FIRST SAW THAT, IT WAS IN THE FIRST BAPTIST AFRICAN-AMERICAN CHURCH IN SAVANNAH, GEORGIA.

IT WAS ON THE FLOOR, SEVERAL AREAS OF THIS, THESE HOLES WERE DRILLED IN AND THEY ALL HAD THE SAME PATTERN.

THIS PATTERN IS A SYMBOL THAT COMES FROM THE CONGO THAT TALKS ABOUT CYCLE OF LIFE.

THAT SITE WAS A SITE FOR THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD AND THEY WERE MADE FOR BREATHING HOLES SO FOLKS COULD HIDE UNDERNEATH THE FLOORS AND AT NIGHTTIME GO NORTH.

FOR ME IT WAS A MAGICAL AND POWERFUL STORY THAT I WANTED TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO GIVE FORM TO.

I'M TRYING TO USE AS MANY KIND OF RHYTHMS, THE VISUAL RHYTHM, THE SONIC RHYTHM, THERE'S A KIND OF SMELL THAT FOR ME IS ANOTHER OPPORTUNITY, AND SUPER STUD, THE SMELL IS REALLY IMPORTANT.

FOR ME TO SMELL LIKE A MARKETPLACE, EITHER A SEA OR AT THE MARKET.

IT TALKS ABOUT RELIGION, IT TALKS ABOUT POWER.

THE SEA IS A SYMBOL OF POWER IN A WAY THAT, YOU KNOW, IT IS MYSTICAL.

THE MARKETPLACE IS A DIFFERENT KIND OF POWER, IT IS THE POWER OF COMMERCE.

COD FISH.

IT IS NOT ONLY THE NATIONAL FISH OF JAMAICA, BUT IT IS ALSO THE FRUITS THAT ALLOWED FOR VIKINGS TO COME TO THE SO-CALLED NEW WORLD.

IT IS THE KIND OF FIRST IMPERIALIST FOOD, IT WAS THAT PRESERVATION OF FOOD THAT ALLOWED THEM TO TAKE THE JOURNEY.

FOR ME THE SYMBOLISM IS SO LAYERED AND POWERFUL.

ONE OF THE THINGS THAT INSPIRES ME THE MOST ARE THE -- THE THINGS THAT PEOPLE DON'T WANT TO THINK ABOUT.

THE THINGS THAT ARE AWKWARD OR PAINFUL OR ANXIETY PRODUCING, I'M ALWAYS GRAVITATING TOWARDS THAT BECAUSE THEN I REALIZE THAT THE ONLY WAY THAT WE CAN REALLY GROW IS TO PUSH OURSELVES.

FOR INSTANCE, EMPTY LOTS IN HARLEM, YOU KNOW, YOU WOULD SEE ENTIRE LIVES BEING THROWN AWAY.

YOU KNOW, LIKE SOMEBODY WOULD BE THROWN OUT OR MAYBE THEY'RE UNDER SOME DURESS AND THEY JUST LEAVE THEIR ALBUMS, THEY LEAVE PERSONAL MEMENTOS, CHILDREN'S TOY.

THE IDEA OF DISPLACEMENT, SO 'EXODUS' BECAME ABOUT FINDING A REPOSITORY FOR THESE DISCARDS THAT SEEM TO BELONG NO PLACE, RIGHT.

NOW THEY ARE GOING TO BE IN THIS OBJECT, IN THIS SCULPTURE INSTALLATION THAT INSINUATED MOVEMENT.

AND THE BIG ROUND FORM IS ACTUALLY THE SKIN OF THE FIRE HOSES.

I REALLY WANTED TO REFERENCE THE BODY, AND I FELT LIKE THAT FELT LIKE ENTRAILS OR EVEN THE TENSION OF FORCE THAT THE BODY'S EXERTING ON A MATERIAL.

SO THE MENDALA FORM SORT OF BECAME THE GUIDE FOR THESE OBJECTS THAT SEEMED TO BE EN ROUTE.

I'M INTERESTED IN QUESTIONS OF HUMAN CONDITION AND THEN I'M TRYING TO FIGURE OUT HOW THESE WORKS CAN HAVE SOME DISCOURSE WITH A PARTICULAR SITUATION.

THE STARTING POINT FOR 'SKY JUICE' WAS A FAMILY ALBUM HANGING FROM THE UMBRELLA OR ACTUALLY PICTURES.

THE IMAGES WERE PUT INSIDE A PEPSI CONTAINER AND THEY WERE SEALED IN TROPICAL FANTASY SODA.

THEY'RE ALL OF THESE OBJECTS THAT I COLLECTED FROM THE WARD, WANTED TO SORT OF SUGAR COAT THEM LITERALLY.

THE SUGAR BECAME A METAPHOR FOR PROMISE OR UNFULFILLED PROMISE.

I WAS FLIP-FLOPPING MY STRATEGY OF WORKING, YOU KNOW, LOOKING AT THINGS THAT NOBODY WANTS TO LOOK AT ANYMORE, DISCARDS AND SORT OF FLY-BELOW-THE RADAR, THE THINGS PEOPLE SEE SO MUCH THEY NO LONGER SEE IT ANYMORE.

THE PEOPLE -- I WAS LIKE, I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT THIS MEANS ANYMORE.

SO I WANTED TO FIND A WAY TO BRING THE BODY INTO A CONVERSATION AND SLOW THE VIEWER DOWN, AND ALSO THE FRACTURING.

SO WHEN YOU LOOK AT IT AT CERTAIN SPACES FROM THE SIDE, YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT YOU'RE LOOKING AT.

AS YOU MOVE AROUND AND IT STARTS TO BECOME MORE LEGIBLE, SO I LIKE ALL OF THOSE OPTIONS.

IT BECAME A WAY TO THINK ABOUT INITIATING A DIALOGUE OF LOOKING.

I FEEL LIKE THE BEST WAY THAT I WOULD WANT SOMEBODY TO WALK THROUGH THIS SPACE IS TO SORT OF LOOK AT IT AS IF IT WAS MADE BY NATURE, AND THAT WOULD BE THE BEST COMPLIMENT THEY COULD GIVE ME, WAS FORGET ABOUT ME AND KIND OF SEE IT AS SOMETHING THAT KIND OF GOT MADE THROUGH ITS OWN RECKONING WITH ENVIRONMENT.