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Artist Kristina Libby and the Village Alliance Welcome New Animal Inspired Public Art Exhibition – In Plain Sight

Alexandra Israel

Jun 7, 2022

Artist Kristina Libby is no stranger to the power of public art: during the onset of COVID, Libby founded the Floral Heart Project. In collaboration with 1-800-Flowers, The Floral Heart Project created and distributed floral heart wreaths as a tribute to those who lost their lives to COVID-19. Moved by community response to the Floral Heart Project, Libby has created a series of large sculptures of apex animals known as the Chunkos. Greenwich Village, a hot-spot for both art and architecture, will play host to the Chunkos in an immersive exhibition titled In Plain Sight (on view from June 10-12). The exhibit is inspired by the unique history of animals in art and architecture in the neighborhood and is a celebration of the resilience, courage and creativity of New Yorkers from all walks of life. On Friday, June 10th, there will be an interactive public art painting exercise with Libby and the Village Alliance Business Improvement District from 5-7pm. She hopes that the installation of the Chunkos in Astor place will spark new conversations and evoke curiosity from passerbys. Curious artists of all ages are welcome to join as she paints in real time with the help of the community the inaugural animals in her Chunkos series. This exhibition re-imagines the lives of apex animals that have banded together as the Chunkos, on our own city streets. How did this concept come to life? How did these animals become known as the chunkos? Last year, I created a public art project called the Floral Heart Project. It was an effort to support those who had lost loved ones to COVID-19 and recognize our losses. And, it was deeply moving to work with so many people who were so impacted. After that project was purchased and brought in-house by 1-800-Flowers, I took a long break and spent time working in ceramics. Ceramics helped me to navigate the complex slew of emotions I was feeling after doing so much work with the community about death and dying. And, one day, I was just playing around and made an elephant. It brought me so much joy to see her little shape come out of the clay. I remember actually laughing. In time, I became more intrigued with that relationship between animals and joy. But, at the same time, more deeply concerned about climate change and the climate crisis. I wanted to do something that utilized our natural connection to animals to galvanize positive social interactions in order to improve the world. When I look at failures to respond to climate change and mass trauma, what I see are social flaws. I see a culture where “I” has been prioritized over “we”. And, unfortunately, “I” is useless in a world where we don’t have strong “we” communities. I believe strong communities grow when everyone feels recognized, and appreciated BUT also as if they have a pivotal role to play in that community. And, I think we forget that every single human has a deep, inherent and compelling purpose – and a need for their purpose to be recognized. This thinking is what drove the Chunkos. A funny name that derived from the fact that they are all big, chunky animals. These huge creatures are like humans: apex or keystone animals. And, through their very existence – they create whole worlds. By being: eating, walking, pooping, they make a habitable world for others. And, the more themselves they are by doing their basic tasks the more that they make even better worlds. This has evolved further with the Chunkos bearing a very specific aesthetic design: brightly colored bodies with white heads which further point to the inherent struggle we humans have at being the biggest version of ourselves. The white heads represent the mask we wear as we struggle with who humanity wants us to be, while the colorful bodies represent our dynamic and vivid desires, needs and capacity. As the Chunkos struggle visually and in stories, to actualize their desires and search for their purpose, they serve as a powerful reminder of our own journey. And, they encourage us to live BIG by remembering that we are more powerful and important than we think.

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