Unless you are of Native American heritage we are all from another nation at some time in our family history. We or our ancestors have left their land of origin to pursue a better life in the United States. The reasons for our departure are many and include: fleeing from war, famine, repressive governing regimes, lack of economic and educational opportunity. All these journeys were based on hope and faith. So in fact we do have a shared and united history: a commonality. This monumental sculpture of Pre-Columbian design created by the sculptor Gunes Akseki is titled NEXUS SPECTRUM. The name literally means the central meeting point or place, a nexus, and all the colors contained within a ray of light, a spectrum, which have been joined together here in West New York to form community.
More specifically, what is now Hudson County during the mid 1800’s was settled by Dutch, German, Austrian and Swiss immigrants. This migration was followed by many Scottish, Italian, Irish, Jewish, Russian, Polish, Armenian and Chinese. Then mid 20th Century many Cubans followed by other Latin immigrants; Colombian, Dominican, Ecuadorian, Mexican, Peruvian, El Salvadoran and Guatemalan peoples settled here. Other recent nationalities include Turkish, Korean and Japanese. Yes the communities of Hudson County are truly the “Melting Pot”. We all have our own stories, and even though many are unique these tales unite and bond us to one another; our forebears struggled and survived, faltered and flourished. We have a multi-chapter story to weave. It is only fair and just to begin with the original inhabitants, the Native American Lenni Lenape located here during the early explorers, colonists and immigrants arrival.
This history is what sculptor Gunes Akseki has called upon, been inspired and motivated by throughout his creation of NEXUS-SPECTRUM, which not only honors the Native Americans who lived, struggled, survived and flourished at times on this land, but is also a tribute to all the diverse nationalities and cultures that have called West New York and Hudson County home and shaped its communities. NEXUS SPECTRUM offers a special tribute to the embroidery industry located within Hudson County starting in the 1860's, founded by Germans, Swiss, Dutch and Austrians. In West New York numerous embroidery factories operated and employed many of the new immigrants and their families, greatly contributing to its growth. The industry became a magnet and anchor for successive waves of immigrants. This combination of industry and a hard working, competent employment base comprised of new immigrants and their descendants jelled to make Hudson County the premier embroidery making center of the United States.
This monumental sculpture (13'x 4'x 4') will serve as an artistic inspiration for some, a source of civic pride to others, and a learning lesson to countless young people. Some will give it their gaze and dream. It may also become a place for gathering and will draw positive attention to West New York and aid in it becoming more attractive to those unaware of its many benefits.
Due to the power and resonance of this rich history and the length of its unfolding which still continues, has been a primary inspiration for Gunes. The sculptures outer skin is made of hand-cut 1/8" steel plate with a surface painted in rich colors referencing textile designs of various nationalities who built these communities. These migrations contributed to the growth of West New York as many new immigrants and their descendants were employed in the embroidery industry. This project is an homage to the Native American people, the first inhabitants of this land for centuries before the arrival of the explorers and colonists, plus all of the immigrants who have arrived here until this day and the embroidery industry which created stability in peoples lives, plus economic growth for both the towns and communities within Hudson County. Without the recognition of our immigrant past and the Lenape people this story is as incomplete as an elegantly embroidered sweater with only one sleeve.
This is a saga Gunes strongly believes in, but its also the crystallized view that some in West New York feel passionately, and many others sense in a more intangible manner. Nexus-Spectrum is a civil and civic endeavor: civil meaning of the people, and civic meaning the governance of the municipality. Both derived from the Latin civis, meaning citizen. The hope is that this project will further build and unite community starting now and well into the future.
I planned to end this story here but sometimes a new influence may be better suited for the closing. I had just received an e-mail from the NEA and its chairwoman since 2014, Nancy Chu. She is a first-generation American appointed by President Obama. I would like to enlist a quote from Nancy because of its relevance; her parents' struggle and journey from the early years of Communist China to the US. It is a precise metaphor for what this project represents.
"The arts illuminate a city through a unique lens. There isn't a template for what a successful community is supposed to look like. If you have seen one community, you have only seen one community. The Arts help us see what is exceptional about where we live". In this time we are living I greatly sense her passage and NexusSpectrum has never been more relevant.
This project is a specific telling of the immigrant experience, but the core story reverberates through hundreds of communities around the United States, and sends ripples across the oceans, wrapping around our globe. This is Public Art with a Universal vision based on the DNA of all the communities of Hudson County. It also reflects our world's current events. So it's timely, beneficial and at its essence, all people can rally around.