Labor of love

(Photo by Mookie Forcella)

(Photo by Mookie Forcella)

It’s thoughtful and imaginative and designed to draw out positive thoughts. It’s designed to promote local unity, local industry, local interaction, local pride. It’s structured simply but packed to the gills with understandable symbolism.

It’s called Love Knots, and it’s Saugerties artist Willie Neumann’s new art installation, stationed at the corner of Main and Market in the parking lot opposite Village Pizza. About 40 people attended the piece’s unveiling on May 4, including Saugerties Town Supervisor Kelly Myers, who lauded Neumann for his “terrific work” and his “six years of work to get something in this parking lot” when she delivered a short speech at the event.

Saugerties Village Board trustee Jeannine Mayer was one of the several smiling Willie fans in attendance. “Willie’s really neat,” she said. “His work is tremendous and his work always has a lot of thought connection. The biggest thing about Willie is his persistence – and the persistence has paid off this time.”

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There’s no question about that. Neumann’s been trying to make something out of that parking lot for the better part of the past decade. In his mind’s eye, he sees a village green there, a tiny park just in the middle of Saugerties, a place for families to relax by day and for wandering teenagers to hang out in by night. “That way,” Neumann said in his plea to the crowd, “you know where your children are at 10 o’clock – and they definitely won’t be hanging out behind the gas station.”

Having Love Knots installed is the first step in Willie’s goal of dolling up the parking lot and making it a community space, “a sliver of green” as he calls it, but the mission’s completion is far down the road and will require plenty of work, as the parking lot is privately owned.

Willie has big plans for the Love Knots – Ulster County-sized plans. “With Rick Remsnyder, the head of the county tourism board, I’m trying to get a mold of (Love Knots) and have one placed in every town in Ulster County,” said Neumann. “And in two weeks, when I have the second one installed in Woodstock, I’m going to have a picture with a smartphone scanning bar that will show you a picture of the other, and invite you over.”

Neumann means quick response, or QR codes. QR codes are often placed on advertisements and posters, and after a smartphone scan, link the viewer to more information or media. Neumann’s idea is to use QR codes in conjunction with Love Knots installations to create an interactive online picture of Ulster County. “If there’s one product in one town that goes well with another product in another town nearby or a little far away, it will invite you there. And if there are similar businesses nearby, it will invite you to those,” said Neumann.

Interactivity, promotion, fostering a sense of community and creating a village green are the endgame, ideas that are cooking and need some more time in the pot before they’re actualized. What there is now is the Love Knot itself.

The Love Knot is classic Neumann. Like most of his pieces, it doesn’t take itself too seriously; Neumann’s made a chunk of his career turning ideas, daydreams, and puns into art that, often literally, encourages the viewer to interact with it. As evidenced by Neumann laying in one of the middle gaps of his piece as if it were a hammock to ham it up for photo opportunities, the Love Knot is no different.

The Love Knot, made of plywood and rendered in candy-coating red, is designed to mirror one of New York’s most recognizable symbols. “It came from the idea of making a heart with the famous New York apple,” said Neumann. “Then it became a matter of making the famous apple into a sculpture. I worked a little infinity sign into it, because it’s a wonderful little line that you can never stop.”

There’s plenty of art in the world that works to make the viewer think hard and deep, plenty of art designed to inspire feelings of dread and disbelief. In fact, it seems like there’s a glut of it these days – dour pieces for unsure times. That’s why the Hudson Valley art community, Saugerties, and the world at large needs more Neumann. More car-sized wooden Dutch shoes for town parades, like Neumann made for the town in 2010; more gargantuan baseball caps made as a tribute to the summer, like Neumann had installed outside of Woodstock’s TD Bank in 2011; more whimsical sculptures meant to bring us all together, like Love Knots — more good-hearted art the viewer can play with on a spring day.

Neumann’s second Love Knot will be unveiled at Marabai of Woodstock in Woodstock at 3 p.m. on May 18.

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