The water-activated mural “The Charter Oak” is the first of two temporary public art works by internationally renowned Connecticut artist Adam Niklewicz. The mural has been installed on the western exterior wall of a long-vacant deconsecrated synagogue at 215 Pearl Street in the central business district. Artist J.D. Richey aided Niklewicz in bringing the project to realization. The second work, a related video projection, titled “Walking Around a Tree” will be presented high on the exterior of the adjacent AT&T building.
Niklewicz explains his dual project: Public art should embrace the existing environment and work to enrich reality. The blank slates (almost screens) of the two downtown buildings invite visuals that give counterbalance (nature) and meaning (historical context). The image of the Charter Oak speaks to both. The projection of the new tree speaks to the continuum.
The Legend of The Charter Oak
Charles De Wolf Brownell The Charter Oak, 1857 Oil on canvas in oak frame carved from Charter Oak wood 43 1/8 x 54 5/16 in. Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT; Gift of Mrs. Josephine Marshall Dodge and Marshall Jewell Dodge, in memory of Marshall Jewell, 1898.10
The iconic image Niklewicz uses is derived from a painting in the collection of the Wadsworth Atheneum, titled The Charter Oak (1857), by Charles DeWolf Brownell.
Framed in wood carved from the Charter Oak, Brownell completed this portrait of the tree a year after it fell to the ground during a violent storm in 1856.
The legend of the Charter Oak tells us that Daniel Wadsworth’s ancestor Joseph Wadsworth hid the Connecticut charter, which guarantees the colony’s right to self-government, in the oak’s hollow in 1687 in response to King James’ decision to recall all of the New England charters. Two years later, when England got a new king and the British governor of New England was jailed, Connecticut’s charter had remained in tact, and the colony was able to govern itself once again. The Charter Oak was nearly 1,000 years old when it fell, and though the tree stands no longer, it endure s as a symbol of strength and Connecticut’s revolutionary spirit .
Poland and the United States
Adam Niklewicz, the artist who was inspired by Connecticut's revolutionary past to create The Charter Oak, came to the United States when Poland was still under Communist rule. His artwork often takes a wistful and wry look at where he comes from, and where he lives today.
Adam Niklewicz's website: http://www.adamniklewicz.com/
The initiative was funded by the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development - Office of the Arts and the City of Hartford with support by the National Endowment for the Arts. The Capital City Canvas project is co-organized by the City of Hartford, Real Art Ways and the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, with additional support from the Greater Hartford Arts Council.
In-kind support for the project was generously provided by 215 Pearl