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Why Are Christopher Walken Heads Popping Up in Queens?

Find out on a Walk-en through Astoria's Socrates Sculpture Park.

In Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens, dozens of Christopher Walken heads have cropped up out of the ground. This is not a harbinger of apocalypse by cowbell, but rather, a work called Monument to Walken by Bryan Zanisnik. A longtime admirer of Walken, Zanisnik sees a relationship between his “incredibly eccentric acting style” and the artist's own art practice. He’s interested in unique spaces in the outer boroughs of New York, like Socrates Sculpture Park, which exists as both an art center and a community green space.

Seeking to create a work that was related to the history of nearby Astoria, Zanisnik discovered that Walken was born there and that his family had owned a bakery just a few blocks away from the park. The confluence of tribute and geography sparked an idea: “I knew I wanted to make a Walken bust and started thinking of the heads as mushrooms, springing up throughout the park," he tells The Creators Project. "It’s as if Christopher Walken’s DNA had been imbued into the soil of Astoria and caused these fungi to grow.”

Photo by Nate Dorr

The busts are not anatomically-classical, however. “To emphasize the mushroom-ness of the sculptures, I elongated the neck and placed the sculptures in wooded areas near trees,” Zanisnik says. He also collaborated with visual artist Eric Winkler on a comic about “psychedelic Christopher Walken mushrooms growing throughout Queens.” The comic is installed in a glass case, like ones for trail maps or informational placards, in the park.

The Walken-shroom comic includes an imagined ad for the Walken family bakery and a guide to different types of ‘Walkens,’ mushrooms “prescribed shamanisticly [sic] by record producers in the 70s” and “used as a suppository by prisoners of war,” among other things.

The Walken comic

To create the busts, Zanisnik worked with 3D artist Ethan Jeremias to create a 3D model of the actor, which was output as a 3D resin print. This prototype was then used to make a mold that produced ten concrete Walken heads. Each one weighs nearly 200 pounds. Christopher Walken may be world-renowned, but Astoria forever holds his heart—and his head.

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Monument to Walken was created as part of Socrates Sculpture Park’s Emerging Artist Fellowship Exhibition. For more information about the park, click here. To see more of Bryan Zanisnik’s work, visit his website.

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