Soil From All Over the World to Fill ‘Earth’ in Greenpoint

Martynka Wawrzyniak indicates the location in the park McGolricka where “Earth” will be located. (Photo by Wojtek Maślanka via Nowy Dziennik)

Martynka Wawrzyniak indicates the location in the park McGolricka where “Earth” will be located. (Photo by Wojtek Maślanka via Nowy Dziennik)

A ceramic ball made from local, Brooklyn clay filled with soil from Poland and parts of the United States and world that Greenpoint residents come from will be installed in McGolrick Park. This artistic project, called “Ziemia” (The Earth), is the idea of Polish-born artist Martynka Warzyniak, currently a Greenpoint resident, who has been an immigrant for almost 30 years.

The artist aims to create “Ziemia” in collaboration with Greenpoint residents. Its purpose is to bridge the divide between the neighborhood’s various ethnic and social groups and to create a portrait of the residents’ nostalgia for their homelands.

Wawrzyniak’s project was born out of her longing for the country she left behind when her parents decided to emigrate when she was 8. At first her family settled in New Zealand, then in the United States. “I came up with the idea of creating ‘Ziemia’ when I moved to Greenpoint in February 2015,” says Martynka Wawrzyniak, who previously lived in Manhattan for 18 years. “I was deeply touched by the nostalgia that I felt smelling the aromas coming out of the Polish bakeries in Greenpoint, as well as the flowers and lindens growing in this neighborhood. They reminded me of my childhood in Poland, the country I left in 1987,” the artist says.

The project also embodies her reflections on immigration and migration that are phenomena familiar to people all over the world. “With the rising displacement and relocation of peoples across the world, there is a greater need to reflect within communities on migration not merely as a global phenomenon, but as a local, micro experience that unites us all,” the artists writes on the project’s website: ziemia.nyc.

In this respect Greenpoint is a perfect example of a local community which is undergoing a demographic transformation. Owing to gentrification, many longtime residents, largely immigrants from Poland, are moving out of Greenpoint to other parts of the city or even to neighboring states.

“I want to reach out to representatives of various backgrounds, cultures and socio-economic classes living in Greenpoint and ask them to bring soil samples from the country or region they come from or which they are sentimental about. The soil will, in a way, represent their identity, past and roots, because it is the soil that is a universal link between the residents of a place,” says Wawrzyniak.

"Earth" - a ceramic ball filled with soil from different parts of the world and covered with clay tiles (Photo by Wojtek Maślanka via Nowy Dziennik)

“Earth” – a ceramic ball filled with soil from different parts of the world and covered with clay tiles (Photo by Wojtek Maślanka via Nowy Dziennik)

In a later stage of the project, using Brooklyn clay, the artist will fire a ceramic ball depicting the Earth. A portion of the soil collected by residents of Greenpoint will be used to glaze the orb, another portion which will be stored inside it. “Physically encapsulating the residents’ pasts – memories imprinted in the soil of their homelands – in the clay and soil of the land where they now reside, the piece symbolically gestures to the primal connection to Earth that underlies each individual’s migratory experience,” the artists explains on her website.

“The Earth” will sit atop a meadow platform in McGolrick Park. The meadow will have pecies of flowers and other plants characteristic of Poland and the Northeastern part of the United States.

“One of the plants on the meadow will be flax. It is not only a plant typical of Poland, but one you can make rope from,” says the artist, who plans to use the mature linen to make a rope as a symbol of Greenpoint, a neighborhood, which once housed the world’s largest factory producing ropes and strings, and employed, among others, immigrants from Poland.

Another part of Wawrzyniak’s project will be workshops organized in McGolrick Park, near her clay ball, where residents will be able to use the soil from all over the world and local clay to produce different objects. The workshops will additionally provide a chance for cross-cultural interaction and exchange for the residents of Greenpoint hailing from different parts of the U.S. and the world. The artists wants the exchanges to inspire a dialogue about immigration and the human relationship with the natural world.

The installation of the clay ball in McGolrick Park is planned for next summer. At this stage of the project, Wawrzyniak is appealing to Greenpoint residents to select and provide soil samples from the regions they come from or that have personal significance for them. Before the soil from international locations makes its way to McGolrick Park, it will first have to get an official USDA soil importing permit and be heat-treated in the chemistry department at Lehman College.

“If the soil comes from a region in the United States, it can be sent in a jar directly to New York,” the artists says, advising the participants to dry the sample of the soil first and clean it from any roots and other organic particles.

More details about the project can be found on: www.ziemia.nyc. More info about the artist at: www.martynka.com.

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