Operating scale model of a steam crane

Here is a scale model of a steam crane. Many of the small parts are made from found materials such as copper staples, old gears, recycled wood, beads, and metal tacks. A motor moves the machine forward. While one hand-operated crank raises or lowers the boom, the other crank unwinds the hook and cable. Dimensions: 4.5 inches wide, 8.5 inches long, and 20 inches tall.

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When dinosaurs take over New York City at night

In the New York City of my imagination, dinosaurs emerge from the Museum of Natural History to prowl “the city that never sleeps.” They roam the streets engaging in dinosaur-like activities: scaring people, stealing from butcher shops, and terrorizing the skyline. For one night, the city belongs to them.

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My little neighborhood in Downtown Newark

Washington Park in Downtown Newark

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Newark Model SmallLeft to right: Broad Street Station, Polhemus House, YWCA Building, Newark Museum, Ballantine House,
Second Presbyterian Church, American Insurance Company, Newark Public Library

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When I examine old pictures of my neighborhood in Newark’s archives, I realize that so much of my city’s built environment has vanished. This trend will continue, as it does in most cities where old buildings outlive their use. If not in the form of my city’s physical destruction, this loss is in the form of my gradual loss of childhood memories. To reconcile this, I built the below model as my own souvenir. This keepsake will forever remind me of my Newark identity.
The landmarks depicted are selected from my neighborhood and include my childhood home. The buildings are drawn with ink and pastel on thick paper, which is then cutout to form a two-dimensional silhouette. The trolleys travel back and forth down the street and are magnetically operated by a crank and hidden string beneath the street. The tracks guide the trains up, down, and into the tunnel. These trolleys are modeled on those that used to exist in Newark, long before my time here.
Perhaps, this models presents a more romanticized and idealized Newark than the city that actually exists.

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New York City in Miniature

The impressive range New York’s architecture, from the humblest home to the slenderest tower, powers my inspiration to create. I aim to capture my perceptions of the bustling city through art.
With a base measuring 28 by 36 inches, I built this model in summer 2014 of wood, paper, and plastic. It contains several dozen of the city’s landmarks, skyscrapers, people, lampposts, subway stations, and a bevy of operating subway cars. Whenever I glance at my tiny creation, I rejoice in knowing that my love of New York is within the breadth of my arms.

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Animation of New York City in miniature

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Animation of one day in the New York City subway

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The chaotic city passes me when riding the NYC subway. It is a whirlwind of colorful peoples, buildings, and cultures. Each new turn of the creaking screeching train reveals new sights. At each new tunnel, there is the always the waiting for the burst of light at the end. And then, there is always the expectation of the next journey.

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NYC collage small

 

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Paper cutouts

Like origami, these flat sheets fold into the shapes of three-dimensional landmarks.

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Political Cartoons

The following images are political style cartoons about nationalism, fascism, and communism. They are drawn in the pedantic and high-contrast style of propaganda images from the Soviet Union. The rigid use of geometry and symmetry is intentional to communicate the oppression these regimes stand for.

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McDonald’s Fast Food Slaughter Machine

This image is inspired by H.G. Wells’ 1895 book The Time Machine. H.G. Wells describes two worlds. The world above is a peaceful garden and amusement park full of naïve residents. Monsters live in the dark world below of tunnels, machines, and the equipment that sustains the aboveground garden. In my rendition of H.G. Wells’ story monsters emerge at night with their nasty machines to harvest people for “USDA approved grade A” burger patties.

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A Goliath made of corporate logos fights a tiny David dressed as Uncle Sam.

Handmade Dollhouse

I built this dollhouse over several years. Using balsa wood, cardboard, and salvaged scraps, I glued together all the pieces of furniture. Odds and ends – such as bottle caps, fabric scraps, and earrings – enrich the rooms with detail. None of the materials are purchased from a building kit or model store. They are all handmade as a skill-building exercise.

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Dollhouse

The Old Essex County Jail

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The old Essex Country Jail sits forlorn and abandoned amidst desolate parking lots and lifeless prefab boxes. In the so-called University Heights neighborhood, the jail is testimony to the past. Listed on the National Register of Historical Places, this 1837 structure is one of the oldest jails in America and the oldest civic structure in the city. Abandoned for over fifty years, no successful preservation efforts have materialized.
The urban jungle of junk trees, vines, and garbage conquers the old fortress. The warden’s garden that zealous prisoners once pruned and weeded is now overrun with nature. Used syringes line the cell-block floors. Not a single window is unbroken. Not a single wall is straight or strong. The rigid geometry that defined this urban castle is now blanketed in decay.
Yet, this fortress of old is still a home. A trail of homeless squeeze through the rusted barbed wire fencing. They carry with them their few odd valuables, cans to be recycled or shopping bags of discarded clothes. Every night, they sleep in the very cells their luckless brethren slept in decades before. Every day, they wander city streets in search of donations, food, and work. The physical prison of brute force and searchlights has evolved into the no less oppressive prison of poverty. Both prisons, new and old, are refuges for the luckless. As its occupants have changed, so has the prison. Both are ghosts. Both are vanishing.

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Related content

  1. Read my January 2021 article in The Newarker magazine.
  2. Read this July 2020 article from Jersey Digs
    about my exhibit and the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s proposal to reuse this jail site.
  3. Hear my September 2019 interview about this jail and exhibit from Pod & Market.
  4. Explore this jail as an interactive exhibit online.
  5. View this artwork as part of my short film from 2016 called Pictures of Newark.

 

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North Wing (left) and West Wing (right)

West Wing

Warden’s House

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Ruins of Warden’s House Interior

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