"Ebb of a Spring Tide" sculpture - marymattinglystudio

"Ebb of a Spring Tide" sculpture

"One day or one night—between my days and nights, what difference can there be?—I dreamed that there was a grain of sand on the floor of my cell. Unconcerned, I went back to sleep; I dreamed that I woke up and there were two grains of sand. Again I slept; I dreamed that now there were three. Thus the grains of sand multiplied, little by little, until they filled the cell and I was dying beneath that hemisphere of sand. I realized that I was dreaming; with a vast effort, I woke myself up. But waking up was useless—I was suffocated by the countless sand. Someone said to me:

“You have been awakened not out of sleep, but into a prior dream, and that dream lies within another, and so on, to infinity, which is the number of the grains of sand. The path that you are to take is endless, and you will die before you have truly awakened.

“I felt lost. The sand crushed my mouth, but I cried out: I cannot be killed by sand that I dream—nor is there any such thing as a dream within a dream.” — Jorge Luis Borges, “The Writing of the God” translation

Ebb of a Spring Tide

Ebb of a Spring Tide is public art that recreates a recurring dream I had while I was in my last apartment. When rain events became more extreme, the floors inside my ground-floor apartment unit filled with water.  When the high tide aligned with a rain event in 2022, the flooding was substantial. This dream in particular navigated the maze of a deconstructed apartment building that was dripping, leaking, and overgrown.

Ebb of a Spring Tide invited people to listen to the salt water from the Water Clock. It dripped into the sink, tubs, barrels, and vessels, and was engulfed in the powerful scents of salt-tolerant herbs, vegetables, and flowers: plants that can persist with sea level rise. Saltwater from the water clock taught me more about time.

Growing up just outside of New York City, my relationship with water was mixed. It oscillated between caution, due to the contamination from agricultural runoff, and genuine appreciation. This made me aware of the consequences of certain farming practices on water and human health. This bond with water set the foundation for how I perceive my own existence in this world. The essentials I’ve always prioritized include water, food, and home.

Initially, I thought through water by crafting wearable sculptures designed to purify water. In 2000, I lived in Oregon and would place these sculptures in high desert locales, assessing their viability as habitats. Over time, their sculptures evolved and increased in size. These sculptures either prioritized a human-sculpture interaction or emphasized the sculpture itself. Every piece I create is what I refer to as a "proposal," or a working representation of an ecosystem. These proposals are intended to invoke wonder - a crucial emotion when envisioning alternative futures.

The idea for "Ebb of a Spring Tide" came during a challenging time. I was living in an apartment in Bed-Stuy, facing flooding issues and contending with mold. Researching tides became an escape. This led me to explore both the personal significance of tides, such as their meaning to my ancestors, and a broader cosmic perspective, analyzing the positioning of the moon and sun. In the studio, my research delved into experiments using East River water and steel disks, culminating in a photographic series titled Salt Moons.

Elements in Ebb of a Spring Tide:

Saline Farming:
Saline farming was a vital component of "Ebb of a Spring Tide." I identified fruits and vegetables that thrive in saline environments, like strains of potatoes, onions, and tomatoes. Visitors listened to the dripping salt water, savored the aromas of salt-tolerant herbs and flowers, and ate the foods. They could learn about the diverse flora from Socrates' online Plant Guide.

Water Clock:
A symbolic mechanism inspired by a project I completed in 2021 in Glacier National Park. This device speculated about what water can teach in terms of fluid timescales, and watery rhythms, and acted as a reminder of environmental changes.

At Socrates Sculpture Park, the canoe settled into the ground at an angle that made the ground look like it was water. What will the park look like in the future as water demands its pathways?

Flock House:
This structure began as a greenhouse and was used as a gymnasium, a studio, and a habitat during the duration of Ebb of a Spring Tide.

Aside from depicting a dream, I drew inspiration from various sources. Writing from Kobo Abe, Samuel Beckett, and Vandana Shiva played a role. They provided me with a rich tapestry of ideas, from narratives about repetition and endurance to architectural wonders. I believe that through art, we can bridge diverse knowledge, capture imagination, and offer alternate models of living. It can be a catalyst for transformative change.

I've always considered water, food, and home to be my crucial investigations. I was raised outside of New York City and had a mixed relationship with water, because the water there was contaminated from agricultural runoff, which made me aware of the negative impact farming practices could have on drinking water and human health. Water is my ongoing teacher.



Ebb of a Spring Tide at Socrates Sculpture Park by Mary Mattingly photo by Scott Lynch

Ebb of a Spring Tide at Socrates Sculpture Park by Mary Mattingly photo by Scott Lynch

Ebb of a Spring Tide at Socrates Sculpture Park by Mary Mattingly photo by Scott Lynch

Ebb of a Spring Tide at Socrates Sculpture Park by Mary Mattingly photo by Scott Lynch

Ebb of a Spring Tide at Socrates Sculpture Park by Mary Mattingly photo by Scott Lynch

Ebb of a Spring Tide at Socrates Sculpture Park by Mary Mattingly photo by Scott Lynch

I began creating Salt Moons with the Water Clock installation in Ebb of a Spring Tide. The Water Clock runs on East River water, which is ocean water. The water was collected in small pools, and I sunk soft steel disks into the pools. They corroded and collected salt. As they transformed, I photographed their transformation. I made this edition for Socrates, called Neap Tide.

Neap Tide, 2023, from the Salt Moon series by Mary Mattingly for Socrates Sculpture Park

Neap Tide, 2023. 12 in x 12 in dye-sublimation print on aluminum. 

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