Q+A: Lara Saget, “The Roots of Tuckahoe Marble”

Lara Saget is the artist behind the "The Roots of Tuckahoe Marble", a public sculpture on display at Clumber Corner. We sat down with her to talk about her work and her connection to DUMBO.

{This interview has been edited for length and clarity.}

Dumbo Improvement District: Hi Lara! Why don’t you start by telling us a bit about yourself.

Lara Saget: Hi! My name is Lara Saget. I've been a sculptor since I was 18. I was trained as a painter. I went to Barnard College and was mentored by my painting professor, Joan Snitzer. She noticed that I was sculpting my paintings and gave me permission to sculpt. I started making sculpture after that.

I worked for Barnard for a few years after graduating, and still teach there in the summer. I also co-founded a collective with my sister, Aubrey Saget, called 'Studio 200,' and we've been curating pop up shows throughout the city and Brooklyn since 2013. We did a pop-up show in the unoccupied ground floor of 10 Jay Street with 30 other sculptors. I’ve shown in Dumbo a few times, so I guess I’m drawn to the neighborhood. There’s a rich history of art here, so to still show work in this context through time is special.

So how did “The Roots of Tuckahoe Marble” come about?

During lockdown, I started planning a public piece, I wanted to put all of my energy towards making something people could come see once things started to lift and feel better. I’ve been working with this Tuckahoe marble for about five years now, fusing Tuckahoe marble and glass together. Marble and glass are theoretically incompatible as they have different heating and cooling rates. But after years of trial and error, we cracked the code to fuse them.

Tuckahoe marble is the marble used to build the Washington Memorial Arch, the Federal Building, and many historic NYC monuments and buildings.

Glass isn’t something conventionally used for public sculpture, since it’s so fragile, but I wanted to figure something out. A couple years ago I had a similar piece shown near Washington Square Park. It was a 6-foot-tall 500-pound glass pillar with pieces of the native woodland garden embedded inside. It was a monument to the native woodland plant life that’s quickly disappearing. I wanted to make a piece that was a monument to a natural object as opposed to a person or an event.

"I’ve shown in Dumbo a few times... There’s a rich history of art here."

It’s part of a larger project of mine where I’ve been driving across the country listening to trees with stories of survival. I use a device to track the electrical differential between the leaves and the roots of the trees and translate that into sound. There’s a QR next to the piece that you can scan to get access to the full sound map of all the trees in my journey. The full experience is available at www.soundofapath.com. It is also linked to the soundmapapp (available in the app store), where you can hear my entire journey.

The piece of bronze in the sculpture is cast from a fallen piece of Pando sourced from Fishlake National forest. The glass and Tuckahoe marble merge with the bronze. This work suspends the marble structural material in glass, crystallizing its impermanence while contextualizing it in relation to Pando. Pando, in Fishlake National Forest, has been growing for at least 80,000 years and is the world's largest organism by mass. It has created a forest of thousands of genetically identical quaking aspen trees, which all stem from a single root system.

What made you choose Clumber Corner for the location of the piece?

It’s a bit of a journey to find the piece, a slow reveal. It’s something you won’t find unless you’re looking for it, and I don’t mind viewers not understanding the whole story at once. It’s a quiet piece, blending in like a tree at the top of the hill, so it takes some curiosity to comprehend the full scope of the piece.

When I was back planning the piece I wanted to do something near Borough Hall, which was built with Tuckahoe Marble. The parks department suggested Van Cortlandt Park, which ended up being a little far for me. When I came to Clumber Corner, I thought, this is perfect. It’s such a quirky spot - people walk by without really acknowledging it.

"The Roots of Tuckahoe Marble" is on display at Clumber Corner until May 16, 2022. Click here for directions to see the work!