'Reclining Liberty' Statue Begins Yearlong Residency In Arlington
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'Reclining Liberty' Statue Begins Yearlong Residency In Arlington

Jun 07, 2023

ARLINGTON, VA — The Museum of Contemporary Art Arlington welcomed “Reclining Liberty” to Arlington on Saturday at an event where the public got a chance to meet the artist behind the statue and learn about the statue’s meaning.

“Reclining Liberty,” a 25-foot-long statue depicting the Statue of Liberty in a lounging pose by artist Zaq Landsberg, will be on display on the lawn in front of the Museum of Contemporary Art Arlington though July 28, 2024.

Landsberg said he wasn’t sure at first if displaying the “Reclining Liberty” statue at a location outside the New York City area would make sense. But he ultimately decided to accept MoCA Arlington’s invitation to display the statue in Arlington.

“I feel like this symbol has enough resonance outside the New York City area, but just in a different way,” Landsberg said.

The decision to turn the Statue of Liberty on its side was based on his belief that monuments should not always be “something literally and figuratively above you” and that “freedom and liberty are not unattainable ideals,” he said.

Those ideals are created by all Americans, Landsberg said, and “Reclining Liberty” speaks to whether the U.S. is "moving in a direction that’s more accessible to everybody, more democratic, and more inclusive, or are we not."

“It is something that has a connection to the New York Harbor but belongs to all of us as Americans,” he said.

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The statue, which weighs between 2,500 and 3,000 pounds, was originally installed in Morningside Park in Harlem in 2021. In May 2022, the work was relocated to Liberty State Park in New Jersey, where it greeted visitors boarding the ferries to Liberty Island. It arrived in Arlington on a flatbed truck on Thursday.

The statue depicts the giant reclining Buddha statues of Asia, which represent the Buddha in one stage on the path to enlightenment and are a theme throughout Buddhist art. Landsberg merged the traditional Buddhist reclining pose with an American symbol of liberty, inviting the public to think about the status of the ideals the Statue of Liberty represents.

For his smaller-scale version of the Statue of Liberty, Landsberg placed the statue on the ground without a base or pedestal. Plus, at the locations where it has been on display, Landsberg said the public hasn't needed an admission ticket and, like on the lawn in front of MoCA Arlington, there have been no barriers to entry for people to experience it.

The inside of the statue is framed with wood and built up with layers of foam. After carving the statue, Landsberg then hard-coated it with plaster resin and fiberglass. The materials were perfect for a statue that was “going to take a beating by the public for a full year” while on display in a New York City public park, he said.

After the statue's stay in Arlington, Landsberg said he expects "Reclining Liberty" will head to a new location in the U.S. a year from now.

Bringing “Reclining Liberty” to Arlington was the brainchild of Blair Murphy, MoCA Arlington’s curator of exhibitions.

Murphy said she had been following Landsberg’s work since 2009, including his conceptual art project called Zaqistan.

When she learned that “Reclining Liberty” might be leaving Liberty State Park in New Jersey, Murphy proposed bringing the statue to Arlington. Catherine Anchin, MoCA Arlington’s executive director, supported the plan.

Murphy was also able to secure funding from Arlington Public Art, an Arlington County cultural affairs program.

“We’ve got this great lawn space, so we’re always looking for projects to bring,” Murphy said. “This is part of the country where we’re all so surrounded by monuments and memorials, so that conversation is right for here.”

MoCA Arlington, an independent, non-profit organization formerly known as Arlington Arts Center, leases its museum space from Arlington County.

Arlington Public Art has a long history of presenting temporary public art, often in partnership with MoMA Arlington on their front lawn, a space that also is part of the county's Maury Park.

“The only criteria we imposed was to tell the story of why is it here,” Angela Anderson Adams, director of Arlington Public Art, told Patch.

Arlington Public Art asked MoCA Arlington to develop programs and engagement during the yearlong stay of “Reclining Liberty” in Arlington “that will probe some of these questions about immigration, democracy and all the things the statue would evoke,” Adams said.

Landsberg, who hopes communities where his art is displayed develop a connection to the works, thought the MoCA Arlington location would be a good first stop for "Reclining Liberty" outside the New York City area.

"I have a soft spot in my heart for institutions that are working beyond the stuff on the white walls inside the museum," he said.

Landsberg appreciates how MoCA Arlington offers art classes and that art education is an important component of the museum's mission. Also, the placement of "Reclining Liberty" in a public park will make it easier for people across the D.C. area to experience the statue.

"MoCA's responsibility is not just to put the fancy stuff inside. It’s to activate the inside and the outside. That’s a natural fit for this piece," Landsberg said.

MoCA Arlington is located at 3550 Wilson Blvd in the Virginia Square neighborhood of Arlington.

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