Artistic invasion of Lehman College life


Ever wondered what the bottom of the Harlem River looks like?

It’s not full of fish or tires or sunken boats, but Marble Hill born and raised artist Abigail DeVille’s installation, “Harlem River Blues,” depicts it being piled high with Johnny Mathis and Stevie Wonder records. 

Ms. DeVille’s grandmother, who died last year after living in Marble Hill for 40 years, was the inspiration for the work, on display through January as part of the Lehman College Art Gallery’s Space Invaders exhibit. 

The installation is crammed into a small video room at the Lehman gallery and includes the artist’s late grandmother’s belongings and furniture, including dozens of her records.

The records, which are scattered on the floor and walls near a picture of her grandmother, can be read as messages.

Johnny Mathis’ “Good Night, Dear Lord.” is near an old Chess record of Moms Mably’s “The Funniest Woman in the World.” Kenny Rogers’ single “She Believes in Me” is near Steve Wonder’s “You are the Sunshine of My Life.”

The installation is dark and mysterious — a television perpetually broadcasts fuzz in the background — and it mimics an underwater feeling of grief.

“She wants you to feel like you’re underwater,” the art gallery’s director Susan Hoeltzel said. But it also brings the viewer into a Marble Hill apartment with roaches and old furniture.

Ms. DeVille is one of 18 artists that invaded Lehman College for Space Invaders, curated by Karin Bravin. For this show, which runs through Wednesday, Jan. 9, the college itself became a canvas.

While most of the installations are within the Lehman Art Gallery’s walls, some spill out onto grounds. At the gallery’s entrance is Rachel Hayes’ brightly colored fabric piece, which moves with the weather. Last week, with a little help from the sun, her piece transformed the gallery’s lobby into a church.

You walk in here and it’s like stained glass windows,” Ms. Hoeltzel said.

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