In June of last year, spurred by the deadly shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, New York governor Andrew Cuomo tasked a commission with building a monument in honor of the LGBT community and the victims of the attack. On Sunday, just in time for New York City’s pride parade, Cuomo announced that Brooklyn-based multimedia artist Anthony Goicolea was chosen to design the monument, Joshua Barone reports for the New York Times.
Goicolea was selected from a pool of artists who submitted proposals for the memorial. His design features nine modified boulders, some of which are bisected with laminated glass. The glass's refraction will “act as a prism to create subtle rainbow patterns on the surrounding lawn and nearby objects,” according to a press release from Cuomo’s office.
The memorial will be built along the piers of the Hudson River Park, an important site in New York’s LGBT history. By the World War I era, the waterfront was packed with ships and sailors, but remained an isolated locale, cut off from the city by the West Side Highway. Consequently, according to the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, the area was a popular “cruising” spot for gay men on the lookout for sex.
Due to its proximity to the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street, the waterfront—particularly the Christopher Street Pier—became an “important gay thoroughfare” after the Stonewall riots of 1969. Gay bars sprung up across the neighborhood and artists flocked to the piers. By the 1980s, the piers had become a safe haven for homeless queer youth of color. Young LGBT people continue to congregate there today.
When conceptualizing his design for the upcoming monument, Goicolea looked to the distant past for inspiration. The boulders of the memorial, he told the New York Times, are based on Stonehenge, Easter Island, ancient burial mounds and African stone circles.
“It feels like there are certain shapes and patterns that are encoded in our DNA as humans that transcend any particular culture and speak to how we are unified in the larger scheme,” Goicolea said. “I wanted to create a space that feels familiar, even though it is new.”
But the artist also kept the very specific needs of New Yorkers in mind. Goicolea told Barone that he knows residents of the city are protective of what little green space they have. His monument will complement, but not consume, one of the park’s lawns.
A rendering of the design shows people lounging on the boulders as the prisms glisten in the sunlight. Perched on one of the rocks is a gay couple.