Interview with artist Annabelle Popa by ArtSite Program Manager, Marissa Lazar


What inspired you to apply to ArtSite?

I saw that ArtSite was doing a project in Jackson Heights, the neighborhood I grew up in, so I though what a special opportunity it would be to have my art in the very place I spent most of my life.

Please discuss your connection to Queens.

My parents moved to Jackson Heights when I was born and I have lived there ever since. As I grew I was able to explore the larger queens area, from Astoria and Steinway street to my favorite bubble tea and dumpling spot in Flushing. Jackson Heights will always be my home base that continues to grow, change, and flourish.

Briefly describe your ArtSite project and what inspired your idea?

Jackson Heights is known as the neighborhood of gardens. Growing up I would take different routes home and would discover some gorgeous courtyards of certain apartment complexes. I found the majority of courtyards and apartments would have 'guardian' animals standing in the pathways. From griffins to lions, to fish over windows, I felt like I was discovering magical lands that were attainable only to those with 'the key'. I feel these creatures have been overlooked and forgotten, so with my project, "Guardians of Jackson Heights", I wanted to bring them into the forefront. By bringing attention to these characters I hope people of the neighborhood will begin to notice and appreciate them once more.

Where will your project be exhibited and why did you choose this particular site for your ArtSite project?

My project will be on a wall along 76th street and 37th avenue at Image Heights Pharmacy. This site is particularly special due to its length, which allows enough room for a narrative to evolve. As viewers walk by the story within the art will be revealed to them. It also has an awning above with lighting so even at night it can be seen.

Will ArtSite be your first public art project? What are some of the key differences between your normal practice and working in the public sphere? 

ArtiSite is my second public art project, but the first that I have full creative control over. In my normal practice I have a commissioner. While I do get some creative freedom, there is a established goal that needs to be met. In my personal work, I do have a narrative or meaning I want to communicate, but it is not often seen by many. This project, I have full creative freedom within the theme that I have established, but I need to keep in mind that this is a piece created for the public. I have an amazing opportunity to make something that will be seen by many, and a responsibility to make something thought provoking.

How do you want/envision the public to interact with your work?

The location of the mural is quite an active block. Busses pass by it and its right on an active avenue. I want people to initially get a glimpse of it, be intrigued, and then go back (whether its on their way home from work or while they're out shopping) to get a closer look. Various elements in the mural are large enough to see from across the block, but many details will be small so going up close will be necessary for the full experience. The wall is right on street level so viewers can get as close as they'd like. I hope the mural encourages viewers to take a closer look at the architecture of the Jackson Heights and find the elements that I tried to emulate within the mural.