JUNE 12 – NOVEMBER 12, 2023
The Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial is a three terrace historic site situated between the Schuylkill River and the Pedestrian path along Kelly Drive. The site begins after Boathouse Row and ends before Girard Avenue Bridge. See map >>
The Association for Public Art (aPA) presents Maren Hassinger’s Steel Bodies at the Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial in Philadelphia. Steel Bodies offers a restorative and inspiring message centered on shared humanity. It is the first contemporary public art exhibition at the historic memorial.
Juxtaposed against the formal, terraced garden setting and existing figurative artworks, Hassinger’s sculptures invite viewers to engage with the memorial in unexpected and poetic ways. Ten metal sculptures are refined, minimal constructions suggestive of three-dimensional, differentiated line drawings in the landscape. Inspired by iconic ancient vessel archetypes, the sculptures simultaneously reveal both the inside and outside of vessel forms which articulate the surrounding environment. Nothing is private or hidden from view in these open “steel bodies” that encourage the viewer to engage with them through shared public space that vividly connects art and nature. According to Hassinger, “if we can share the sky, we can share other things.”
Steel Bodies provides opportunities to reflect on spirituality and the ways that art can transform perspectives about history, humanity and equity. Instead of dwelling on our differences, Hassinger encourages us to think positively about what we share in common. Though each sculpture is unique with varying sizes and shapes, they each symbolically accept, contain, and protect. With these artworks the artist suggests, “We are ALL vessels capable of compassion, and we are all equal. We share our humanity.”
MAREN HASSINGER (b. 1947, Los Angeles, CA) lives and works in New York, NY. She received her BA from Bennington College and her MFA in Fiber Structure from the University of California, Los Angeles. The artist has built an expansive practice that articulates the relationship between nature and humanity. Carefully choosing materials for their innate characteristics, her sculptures reflect the sensibilities and education she experienced as a sculptor in the Fiber Arts Program at UCLA. Hassinger was the Director Emeritus of the Rinehart School of Sculpture at the Maryland Institute’s College of Art in Baltimore, where she served as the school’s Director for over twenty years before retiring in 2017. She has exhibited widely in both the United States and abroad and her work is included in the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago; Baltimore Museum of Art; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Modern Art, NYC; the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, NYC, among others. Hassinger has recently been commissioned to create outdoor works for Socrates Sculpture Park, Sculpture Milwaukee, Dia Bridgehampton, the Smithsonian Museum, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Aspen Art Museum, and Destination Crenshaw. This will be the first outdoor exhibition of her artworks in Philadelphia.
Voices heard in the Steel Bodies Museum Without Walls: AUDIO program:
Maren Hassinger’s work is included in the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago; Baltimore Museum of Art; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Modern Art, NYC; the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, NYC, among others. She is also an educator and is the Director Emeritus of the Rinehart School of Sculpture at the Maryland Institute’s College of Art in Baltimore, where she served as the school’s Director for over twenty years.
Jess Wilcox is the former Curator and Director of Exhibitions at Socrates Sculpture Park. From 2011-2015 she worked at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum, organizing public programs and public artworks including Agitprop!, an exhibition of historical and contemporary political art. Wilcox has a BA from Barnard College and a Master’s degree from Bard CCS.
Dejay B. Duckett is the Vice President of Curatorial Services at African American Museum in Philadelphia. She was Associate Curator at The University of Pennsylvania’s Arthur Ross Gallery for 15 years. She has a B.A. in Art History from Spelman College and an M.A. in Museum Studies from Seton Hall University.
Segment Producer: Alex Lewis, Rowhome Productions
Maren Hassinger: Steel Bodies was originally presented and commissioned by Socrates Sculpture Park, New York with support from the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation. Artworks courtesy of the artist and Susan Inglett Gallery.
This exhibition is made possible through our partnership with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation.
Have you visited Steel Bodies in Philadelphia? We’d like to hear from you! Please consider taking this brief survey.