Bringing new life to Our Lady
Star of the Sea, Martin uses her signature black and white drawings to create a
living, visible beacon in the Island’s Historic District. Inspired by her
personal experiences and research on the vibrant history of the Island, Church
invites visitors to circumnavigate the former chapel’s architecture through
image and narrative, engaging with the dynamism of the landscapes that surround
it. In this way, the work serves to highlight and help reimagine a building
that has long been empty and closed to the public. Reflecting upon the
building’s history, Martin’s large-scale drawing pays tribute to the disused
former military structure and honors its legacy as a place of great
significance on the Island during its half-century of active use.
With The May Room, Shantell Martin creates a labyrinthine installation spanning the floors and walls of the building that act as a place of both quiet reprieve and shared discussion. To expand on her monumental work Church, which transformed the façade of Our Lady Star of the Sea, Martin now reimagines the interior of this former chapel built in 1942 with her signature black-and-white line drawings. Custom-built furniture in the shape of letters that can be arranged to spell out words will dot the floor of the space, allowing visitors to move and interact with the work. The building’s nave, which has been closed to the public since 1996, will be restored as part of Martin’s project.
In addition to regular open hours for visitors to explore the installation, The May Room will host a series of poetry readings presented by the Poetry Society of America in partnership with national poetry organizations including Kundiman and CantoMundo. These free events will respond to the spirit of Shantell Martin’s work and the architecture and setting it exists within.
Schedule of Poetry Society of America readings and partner organizations:
Saturday, September 14: CantoMundo is a national poetry workshop dedicated to supporting and developing Latinx Poets and Poetry.
Saturday, September 28: Kundiman creates an affirming and rigorous space where Asian American writers can explore, through art, the unique challenges that face the new and ever changing diaspora.
Saturday, October 5: Puerto Rico en mi corazón features readings of works by poets included in the eponymous bilingual anthology of 40 Puerto Rican poets published in response to Hurricane Maria.
Built in 1942, Our Lady Star of the Sea originally opened as a Catholic chapel during the Second World War and the expansion of the former U.S. Army base. Serving as a central hub of religious activity on the Island along with nearby St. Cornelius Chapel, Our Lady Star of the Sea remained in use until 1996 when the U.S. Coast Guard ceased operations on Governors Island. Deconsecrated for over 20 years, the former chapel is one of the few non-landmarked buildings located within the Governors Island Historic District. Martin’s project brings new life and visibility to the former chapel for the first time in years.
Generous support for Shantell Martin on Governors Island is provided by Charina Endowment Fund, The O’Grady Foundation and Facebook Art Department.
Additional support is provided by Pullman, Sherwin-Williams and Krink.