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The Meandering Midden “Pop Up!” 2023 As part of “Where the Water Goes” at RoCA Scupture Grounds! October 14th 2023-May 30th 2024

Rockland Center for the Arts in West Nyack.. New York! Opening October 14th…

The Meandering Midden: By Mara G. Haseltine, oyster shell, landscape, dimensions variable 2023


A traveling work of public art and an ode to New York’s environmental history, The Meandering Midden, which is composed solely of aged oyster shell will enjoy its fourth installation at Rockland Center for the Arts in West Nyack for their “Where the Water Goes” Exhibition October 14th, 2023-May 30th 2024, curated by Barbara Galazzo.  Which features water issues with a focus on the Hudson River and the surrounding watershed.

The Meandering Midden installation is unique each time it is installed in that the sculpture’s shells take on the shape of the architecture and natural setting into which they are integrated. Unlike those middens of yore, where discarded shells were tossed in a heap, this one has been deliberately crafted. Inspired by Japanese garden design, the arrangement of shells is intended to mimic water flow in the intertidal zone where oysters flourish.  What is also great about this installation is I always work with volenteers each of whom has a unique way of laying down their shell to transform the landscape. It is always different and this time I felt it really took on the energy of the shady forested spot we were working on and I loved the way it reached across the path…reminding me of the complex root systems underneath the soil that communicate with each other in forests. So special thanks to Barabra Galazzo who not only curated by also volenteered andThe RoCA crew…Aaron, Chris and Jeremy!

To create The Meandering Midden, one day’s worth of oyster shells, the refuse of modern New York’s arduous appetite for oysters”, were collected by artist  Mara G.. Haseltine along with students and collaborators from one day at The Oyster Bar at Grand Central Station. The work is a piece of modern archeology instead of eating solely the Crassostrea Virginica oysters from coast to coast including oysters from imported European fry are served daily. The Meandering Midden is literally an ode to New York’s flourishing global economy where the oysters served here are from every corner of the world. restaurant oyster shell is being used in a large scale for oyster restoration currently in New York City. 

Oyster shell composed of calcium carbonate, or lime sequesters carbon dioxide in the oceans on a large scale.  Calcium carbonate is frequently used to “sweeten” acid soil by gardeners. So as the installation naturally degrades, and the shells get crushed into the urban soil it has the bonus balancing the soil’s Ph.  

History: and Oyster Reef & Midden Facts of Oyster Reefs in NYC:

Oyster middens are piles of discarded shell–that once littered the landscape of Manhattan and its neighboring shores where Manhattan’s native Lenape Tribes would settle and have great oyster feasts, a testament to the astonishing abundance of the indigenous Eastern Oyster, Crassostrea Virginica. Indeed, with 350 square miles of oyster reef, New York Harbor was rightfully known as the “Oyster Capital of the World.”   Because the average depth around Manhattan was shallow on average not more than twenty feet deep, before the harbor was dredged for shipping, it was boosted perfect conditions for a vast oyster population as oysters thrive in shallow sunny waters full of plankton.  

Oysters reefs were and are crucial to the health of New York waters and shorelines, oyster reefs “softened the shoreline” and protect the land during storm surges, they also provide habitat for fish, crustaceans and other marine life to live and breed so they are necessary for biodiversity and amazingly one oyster can filter up to seventy-two gallons of water daily especially in the summer months, when they are really pumping, so that New York Harbor was constantly being filtered and cleaned making it an unparalleled habitat for abundant biodiversity.  The Dutch settlers described Manhattan as “The Golden Island” when they first arrived with birds landing on their shoulders and with sweet breezes with a fish stock so heavy you could practically,” walk across the Hudson River” on the back of the sturgeon-all because of the oysters…

Check out the 26 sec video of the installation as it was being created…October 1st 2023