False flags: Flying fabric shows Gowanus as clear blue sky

Oh cyan can you see: The flags of “Cloud Drift” were created using cyanotype, a 19th-century printing process that makes blue and white images.
Photo by Erin Lefevre

Call it sludgie in the sky.

A Gowanus artist has transformed images of the notorious canal’s oil-slick surface into gorgeous sky-blue flags, now flying high over Brooklyn’s Nautical Purgatory. This Saturday, she will lead a boat tour along the polluted waterway, offering a unique view of the “Cloud Drift” art installation and of the wide-open skies that inspired it.

“It’s a unique part of the neighborhood, you can actually see the sky in that part of Gowanus in a way that you can’t in a lot of other places in the city,” said Katarina Jerinic.

Jerinic took photos of the Lavender Lake’s surface, then developed the images onto four flags using cyanotype, a 19th-century printing process that makes monochromatic blue and white images. The streamers fly above the canal’s pedestrian crossings, at the Union Street, Third Street, and Ninth Street bridges. A fourth flag flew from the Carroll Street Bridge, until some prankster recently stole it, Jerinic said.

The project is designed to elevate people’s views of the murky canal, which is painted with slicks from the toxic chemicals lurking in its waters, according to Jerinic.

“What I really wanted to do was put the canal up into the sky — to make a mirror of the space we pass over and under everyday,” she said.

For Saturday’s excursion, she will partner with canal boating group the Gowanus Dredgers to provide information about the flags and the waterway’s past. Jerinic led a similar excursion in July, which she says gave boaters a fresh perspective on the polluted passage.

“It’s interesting how you can see the surfaces up close and get a sense of the water in the canal and how things shift as you move over the surface of it,” she said.

The canal is a federal Superfund site, and its long-awaited cleanup began last year. And Jerinic hopes her flags will highlight the waterway’s importance in the neighborhood, despite its dirty past.

“It’s part of this thing that’s defined the character of the neighborhood,” she said. “My project points out and calls attention to it.”

Following the tour, attendees can unwind from their journey with beers at the Gowanus Dredgers boathouse.

Cloud Drift canoe tour at Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club (166 Second St. at Bond Street in Gowanus, www.gowanussouvenir.com). Sept. 16 at 4:30 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Flying high: Artist Katarina Jerinic will lead a canoe tour of her “Cloud Drift” flags, flying above the Gowanus Canal, on Sept. 16.
Photo by Erin Lefevre

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