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A New Constellation Rises Over the Hudson River

Melissa McGill's 'Constellation' emerges high above the mysterious ruins of Bannerman Castle.

The mysterious castle ruins on Pollepel Island, which lies in the middle of New York’s Hudson River, will become the setting for Constellation, a light installation that debuts in June. For it, artist Melissa McGill plans to station seventeen aluminum poles with solar-powered LEDs encased in handblown glass globes around the perimeter of what remains of Bannerman Castle, a structure that was built at the turn of the 20th century.

McGill was first intrigued by the site after spotting it from the Metro North train during her move to upstate New York seven years ago. Curious to open dialogues between absence, presence, memory, and existence, she began using art to investigate the stories held within. “I did a drawing of two photographs superimposed: one as the castle as it is now, the ruin, versus the castle that it originally was,” McGill recounts in Constellation's audio guide. Then, she marked points that connected the ruins to its original structure, and used those floating points to guide the placement of her lights. 

“I became really interested in the constellation becoming a path to more exploration of the place,” she adds. In addition, she referenced the belief of the Lenape, the indigenous Native Americans of the area, that the Milky Way, “Opi Temakan,” was a link between the real world and the afterlife. Below, see the work in daylight and a bird's eye view of the castle by John Huba:

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