Beverly Barkat's Earth Poetica at 3 World Trade Center re-imagines planet Earth using waste from around the world

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Beverly Barkat's Earth Poetica at 3 World Trade Center re-imagines planet Earth using waste from around the world
Artist Beverly Barkat with Earth Poetica installed at The Gottesman Family Israel Aquarium in Jerusalem, March 2022. Photograph by Michael Amar.

NEW YORK, NY.- Coinciding with the 50th Anniversary of the United Nation’s World Environment Day is the public opening of Israeli artist Beverly Barkat’s Earth Poetica, a site-specific public art installation depicting planet Earth and composed of plastic waste. Earth Poetica is freely accessible to visitors beginning Monday, June 5, 2023 at 3 World Trade Center (3 WTC) in Lower Manhattan. The 180 colorful panels – resplendent with filtered light – portray regions of the Earth whose continents and oceans are suffocating under growing masses of plastic waste. The stunningly vibrant work re-imagines the planet as a giant biosphere made of steel, bamboo and tons of plastic collected from oceans, waterways, and forests, etc. Through Barkat’s artistry, the up-cycled plastic bags, bottles and cups assume the brilliance of the most exquisite stained glass, and in their beauty, offer a vision for employing new technologies to address ecological decay. Earth Poetica at 3 WTC is the latest large-scale public art addition to Lower Manhattan’s burgeoning free, public art scene, which includes masterworks by James Rosenquist (also on view at 3WTC), Frank Stella, Jenny Holzer, and many others.

“I am deeply grateful to the Silverstein family – Lisa, Larry and Klara – who embraced Earth Poetica from the outset and are exhibiting it in this significant destination,” said artist Beverly Barkat. “It is exciting that the World Trade Center – itself a symbol of astonishing renewal – is the exhibition space for Earth Poetica, which likewise signals a message of hope and renewal.”

Barkat’s Earth Poetica arrives in New York and the world’s crossroads following an acclaimed display at The Gottesman Family Israel Aquarium in Jerusalem, in 2022. Since its debut, Earth Poetica has been received as a searing poetic dialogue on the growing incursion of plastic waste and the possibility for creative redress.

“We are delighted to welcome Beverly’s unique and purposeful art to 3 World Trade Center,” said Lisa Silverstein, Vice Chairman, Silverstein Properties. “Important thought-provoking art like this can enliven our public spaces, enrich our lives, and draw attention to some of the most critical issues we face in the world today.”

“Earth Poetica is an aesthetic action entangled between the artist’s inner horizon and the world,” said Dr. Raffaella Frascarelli, Curator and Director of the Nomas Foundation, which provided expert consultation in support of the creation of Earth Poetica. “The language of this creation echoes with material and spiritual challenges, raising questions about the radical engagement of the public sphere and a new prospect of post-human citizenship. Above all, this living sculpture shows us the planet as a common good of life.”

Barkat’s inspiration came after watching a documentary about plastic pollution. Troubled by images of children picking through trash along a seashore, Barkat began collecting plastic waste, eventually aided by a global community of like-minded conservationists from six continents, including individuals from the US, UK, South Africa, Taiwan, Japan, and Australia who sent her locally sourced plastic waste for her project. Over three years, she amassed tons of plastic waste until her studio was bursting at the seams.

Barkat eventually organized and classified each item – bottles, bags, lids and fishing nets – sorting them by color, form, hardness, strength, and transparency. Using a soy resin, she developed a method to transmute the pieces of plastic into a material that both resembles brightly illuminated stained glass and echoes the colors and landscapes of the Earth’s oceans, mountains, deserts, and forests. The final sculpture, composed of 180 panels, is approximately 13 feet (four meters) in diameter, with a steel structure mimicking longitude and latitude lines drawn by human science, and bamboo scaffolding echoing natural structure. The globe includes a small entry portal allowing viewers to peer inside the interior shell and discover that what appeared to be hard stained glass is – in actuality – trash.

Earth Poetica is presented in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and opens on World Environment Day, celebrated annually since 1973, on June 5. This year’s theme focuses on plastic pollution, and how plastic waste contributes to the climate crisis. Since its creation in 1972, UNEP has been the global authority that sets the environmental agenda, promotes the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the UN system, and serves as an authoritative advocate for the global environment.

Earth Poetica joins several other public artworks on view in Lower Manhattan creating the feel of an open-air museum, many made possible by Silverstein Properties which has supported art and artists in its buildings for over 30 years. Barkat’s sculpture joins other public works on view by Jenny Holzer, James Rosenquist, Kozo Nishino, and Tara Donovan, among others, as well as the recently installed Frank Stella sculpture Jasper’s Split Star in front of 7 WTC.

Beverly Barkat

Beverly Barkat (born in Johannesburg, 1966) is an Israeli artist whose works have been exhibited across the world. Her early works were largely figurative, but she later turned to abstraction, focused on capturing movement. She works with clay, metal, and glass, in addition to drawing and oil painting.

In 2014, her series of paintings inspired by Japanese calligraphy earned her the Curator’s Award at the 28th International Exhibition of Art in Kyoto, Japan. Since 2017, she has created several large-scale, site-specific works for international venues. Her first international solo exhibition, Evocative Surfaces, was shown at Museum Grimani in Venice during the 57th Venice Biennale in 2017. In 2018, she exhibited After the Tribes at Museum Boncompagni in Rome, where she used an experimental painting medium with natural, locally found materials that incorporated a metal structure to explore the relationship between aesthetic forms and the complex history of the Jewish people. Since 2019, her works have been regularly shown in the Far East, most notably in Taiwan. In 2022, Barkat held three major exhibitions: Mass Movement Energy, a solo exhibition of oil paintings at Da Xiang Art Space in Taiwan, and two exhibitions in Israel – the first presentation of Earth Poetica at The Gottesman Family Israel Aquarium in Jerusalem, and Galloping, a solo exhibition of oil paintings and drawings at The Rothschild Fine Art Gallery.

With the critically acclaimed Earth Poetica, the artist experiments with an innovative medium – organic bamboo, steel, plastic waste and resin – one that marks a further departure from artistic convention to address the urgent problem of global plastic pollution.

Barkat’s work has been placed in various private and public collections. Three of her artworks from the series Evocative Surfaces are exhibited permanently and are part of the art collection of Museum Grimani in Venice.

Barkat Studio is located in Jerusalem where the artist lives with her husband Nir Barkat.

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