Splendor on the grass: Local artist erecting three-faced sculpture in Ft. Greene Park

Splendor on the grass: Local artist erecting three-faced sculpture in Ft. Greene Park
Parks Department

They’re the new faces of Fort Greene Park!

A massive sculpture featuring three carved visages will soon greet visitors to Fort Greene’s eponymous meadow, the Department of Parks and recreation announced on Wednesday.

The green-space agency handed $10,000 to local artist Tanda Francis — who created a larger-than-life memorial for borough son and hip-hop legend Biggie Smalls in 2016 — to make her 14-and-a-half-foot piece, “Adorn Me,” which combines elements of traditional African sculpture with references to Victorian- and colonial-era dress, and will serve as a new monument to black culture in the nabe when it is installed this summer, according to the artist.

“I’m using the overall form of a large African head and incorporating contrasting elements of adornment — themes of skin scarification practiced in West African cultures, and decorative elements seen in Victorian ornamentation,” said Francis, who lives in Park Slope. “I seek to address the demographic of people of African descent who are often underrepresented in public art, especially in terms of the current historic artwork featured in and around Fort Greene Park.”

Francis, who used to live in Clinton Hill, said she wanted to create a powerful and positive image for the African American community in Fort Greene, which transformed from a once mainly working-class, low-income neighborhood into a largely affluent, white-collar community.

“Being an African American woman working, speaking my voice, is something I don’t see often in the public space,” she said. “The work I’m producing is a positive representation of people from African descent.”

The sculpture will stand in a to-be-determined spot inside the green space from this June through next May, and its authentic representation of African culture is a remedy to the recent controversy surrounding some culturally insensitive monuments throughout the city, according to the Parks Department.

Francis is one of 10 artists who received grant money from clothing retailer Uniqlo to create artworks that will be installed in a handful of city meadows, including Bedford-Stuyvesant’s Herbert Von King Park, which local artist Roberto Visani will adorn with his own original piece, according to the agency.

And elsewhere in Fort Greene Park, the Parks Department is moving along with its polarizing plan to transform the meadow’s entry at Myrtle Avenue and St. Edwards Street into a grand corner entrance leading to the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument, according to a spokeswoman, who said the project’s design phase is expected to wrap this spring before the agency begins a nine-month procurement process followed by the start of construction.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.