About the Artist
Mary Mattingly (b. 1978) is an interdisciplinary artist who cares deeply about water and believes in the power of public art. She founded Swale, an edible landscape on a public barge in New York City. Recent public art projects include Limnal Lacrimosa in Glacier National Park, Public Water with +More Art in New York, Vanishing Point with Metal Southend and Focal Point Gallery in the UK. Mattingly has exhibited sculpture and photography at the Cuenca, Istanbul, and Havana Biennials, as well as institutions such as Storm King, the International Center of Photography, the Seoul Art Center, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Palais de Tokyo. She has received grants and foundations such as the James L. Knight Foundation, the Harpo Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, and the Art Matters Foundation. Her work has also been featured in publications like Aperture Magazine, Art in America, Sculpture Magazine, The New York Times, Le Monde Magazine, and on Art21. It has been included in books such as the Whitechapel/MIT Press Documents of Contemporary Art series titled “Nature”, and Henry Sayre’s “A World of Art”, 8th edition, published by Pearson Education Inc. In 2022, a monograph of her work titled “What Happens After” was published by the Anchorage Museum and Hirmer.
Image: Courtesy of the Artist
Images: Scott Lynch, Alexa Hoyer
In response to Mattingly’s concerns about the impact of climate change on human habitats, she began building a series of mobile, self-sufficient living systems known as Flock Houses. Designed to be adaptable to different environments, including urban and rural areas, these structures can serve a variety of purposes, such as living quarters, community gathering spaces, or agricultural sites.
At Socrates, the use of this Flock House in Ebb of a Spring Tide will evolve alongside the needs of the exhibition, beginning as a growing space and evolving into a dwelling. Visitors are invited to use this space for shelter, contemplation, and creativity. The garden that surrounds this dome is growing an array of plants that will be used to naturally develop photographs later in the summer. For more information on community and artist-led workshops at the Flock House, please visit our website.
Mary Mattingly discusses Flock House in the exhibition Ebb of a Spring Tide.
Mary Mattingly: Flock House is a project I started in 2012, small spheres or habitats that plug into existing infrastructure. Often times utilizing excess from the surrounding buildings. They had portable gardens, solar units, and everything to make a small modular system habitable. I imagine that they would be more and more relevant with the displacement due to weather events, desertification, and rising sea levels as cities would begin to operate more informally. Sharing resources like energy systems and water collection systems. While I grew up on the East Coast, I’ve lived all over the country and beyond. And these itinerant Flock Houses structures felt especially relevant to me, as I often carried around my possessions – which are such a weight, sometimes – to another temporary dwelling, for work or for a residency, always returning to home in New York.
The flock house felt like home again after I moved from the flooding apartment and searched for a new home in a city with rising rents and a dearth of available units. This summer I will inhabit the flock house at different times, and use it as a studio. In part, I’ll work on photographic project, experimenting with a dye garden and a photographic garden for help developing black and white prints. Please join me later in the summer, for photographic workshops.
Images: Scott Lynch, Alexa Hoyer
Spanning 65 feet, this monumental sculptural ecosystem hosts families of salt-tolerant plants alongside a flowing water clock embedded in its center. An ancient time measuring device, the Water Clock’s pulse is kept by water from the nearby estuary moving through tubes into vessels, evoking a life support system. The sculpture mirrors the Manhattan skyline, highlighting our human impact on the nearby riparian zone—a crucial meeting point between land and water.
Materials that are commonly used in industrial agriculture—IBC bins, 55 gallon drums, and stock tanks—have been refashioned into generative spaces for living organisms, demonstrating the potential of everyday objects to inspire new ways of thinking about sustainability and self-sufficiency. The inclusion of doors and a bed frame references an apartment building, which connects to Mattingly’s personal experience of facing floods in her own apartment. This direct encounter provided the artist with a deeper understanding of our interconnected relationship with water cycles.
Mary Mattingly discusses her exhibition Ebb of a Spring Tide and Water Clock
Mary Mattingly: Ebb of a Spring Tide asks the water to explain its own time. It tells time through the cycling flow and movement of water, through the large Water Clock. How it collects in the surrounding sedimentary formations, and how it responds to the tidal shift of the East River. Watching and listening to these water flows can be seen as a symbolic presence of the tides.
Ebb of a Spring Tide is about my last apartment unit, it was in the lowest level and would flood when high tide met with torrential rains. I started following the tides. After it happened a few times, I was able to move to the top floor. Which I also quickly learned leaked from the roof this time, when it rained. The sculpture’s form is based on a dream I had, a building built with a scaffolding frame with steps and tiers to compose the water element, like a deconstructed apartment building collecting water in its crevices (with doors to nowhere and ladders to nowhere – in continual repair. If you were to see it from above, the form replicates the East River’s tide map. In the dream, the canoe was right there, but I couldn’t use it because it was porous, full of holes and also sinking.
My work is about home, food, water, and care, especially through the stewardship of ecosystems. Here, I wanted the sculpture to show what could grow when more and more lands are inundated with salt water intrusion. As the East River expands, and as storm scenarios change in a city with prevalence of more storm events. All these plants are salt-tolerant and some thrive in salt water, they’re all edible or have medicinal properties. Like the ecosystems that I inhabit daily, installing and maintaining the Water Clock elements in Ebb of a Spring Tide is about balance. While it acts like a machine, it’s also organic. It needs to be tended to with patience and diligence. I believe when a human-made ecosystem is small enough to comprehend, it opens up more opportunities for care. It’s possible to see how and why something may not be working, and then work with it to find a balance.
Many people from Socrates directly participated in its care, as well as people who come by and forage from the salt-tolerant plants. I hope the sculpture invites people to reflect on these waters and the speed of ecological change and on the importance of ancient human traditions that guard the relationships with water. I want us to wear these waters as the land that I inhabit, as they move through our bodies, and cycle through the sky, atmosphere, and back down to the aquaphors, the rivers, and so forth.