PARK SLOPE – Last Sunday, a new public artwork was installed at the recently revamped 7th Avenue Triangle on the west side of Flatbush.
William Soltis’ sculpture Under the Sun, displayed on the island bounded by Park Place and 7th and Flatbush Avenues, greets passersby and invites pedestrians to take a rest on one of the nearby benches. Composed of 600 pounds of welded steel, the artwork stands 10 feet tall. Plans for the installation were first announced at the Community Board 6 Parks Committee meeting in June.
Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and raised in Columbus, Ohio, Soltis currently lives in Prospect Heights and has a studio in Gowanus. He also works as an art teacher at James Madison High School in Sheepshead Bay.
Soltis passes the 7th Avenue Triangle regularly on his way to the subway and reached out to the NYC Parks Department with the proposal to install a sculpture at the Flatbush Avenue Greenstreet space. “The entire intersection was being renovated. As it was getting closer to completion, it really began to look nice,” Soltis explained to Bklyner. “I had done a sculpture for the Parks Department before…. I was planning on making another one for a park. Then I thought, why not put it here? It would be great if I could contribute to this project and to my neighborhood.”
Another sculpture by the artist, Divergence, was exhibited at Cuyler Gore Park in Fort Greene in 2017 as part of NYC Parks’ Arts in the Parks program. Since 1967, the NYC Parks program has brought more than 2,000 public art installations by 1,300 established and emerging artists to over 200 parks.
Soltis experiments with shapes, images, patterns, and the human figure in his work, creating several maquettes, or models, and allowing “the process [to] create the idea for the sculpture,” he said. “When I have finished several maquettes, I choose my favorite ones to enlarge into metal.” For Under the Sun, the artist says he experimented with “positive and negative figure images” and incorporated a circular shape into the sculpture. “Then everything just came together. It appeared as though the figures were having a gathering under the sun.”
Though Soltis deliberately does not create work with a specific message—preferring to let viewers interpret the art on their own and connect with it “on a personal level”—he notes, “through the process of creating the work, general themes develop.”
In the case of Under the Sun, he said the “positive figure images are breaking away from the negative images…. It explores how the environment and the individual are linked. You are created by your environment, but you also diverge from your environment to become an individual.”
“The manufactured patina and positive and negative spaces [that] the artist created captures so much vitality and movement ‘under the sun’ with light and shade, people and plants,” said James Dean Ellis, Executive Director of the North Flatbush Business Improvement District (NFBID). “It blends into the space effortlessly and yet captures your attention as you pass by.”
“Our neighbors seem pleasantly surprised by the arrival” of the artwork, he added. “We have noticed more and more neighbors stopping and taking note of the art and utilizing the newly installed benches.”
The NFBID has been working for several years to transform three islands along Flatbush Avenue into pedestrian-friendly green spaces. Along with the 7th Avenue space, the triangles at 6th Avenue and Carlton Avenue have also received upgrades including sidewalk repairs and new benches, signage, solar compactors, and plantings. “It has been nearly 15 years of working on the Triangle green space upgrades and we are finally seeing the fruits of our efforts,” Ellis noted.
He added that the installation of the new public artwork “demonstrates how improved public spaces bring increased amenities to the commercial corridors” and highlights how the city’s BIDs help “make New York City a more safe and inviting place.”
Ellis hopes to collaborate with more artists now that the NFBID’s years of hard work to improve the Flatbush Avenue islands is complete. “We would love to continue hosting public art—especially local artists,” he said. “Our proximity to the Brooklyn Museum and the cultural heart of Brooklyn begs for more connectivity and continuity in our neighborhood.”
Other cultural additions to the district include the recent opening of Established Gallery at 75 6th Avenue as well as a mural that is currently in-progress on one of the NFBID’s “underutilized properties” at 604 Pacific Street. “North Flatbush Business Improvement District will continue to seek opportunities to partner with culture, commerce, and community,” Ellis said.
Under the Sun by William Soltis will be on view through July 2020.