Public Water

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Mary Mattingly’s Public Water brings attention to the rarely-seen labor that humans (and non-humans) do to care for New York City’s drinking water. For more about these public art projects, visit

One of the projects, “Watershed Core,” uses medical breathing devices that are retrofitted to feed plants. The sculpture is, in essence, a microcosm of the living system that is New York City’s watershed. It shares the rich ecosystem just north of the city that cares for city residents, from the water we drink to the air we breathe. It visualizes these multiple dependencies: from water, soils, and CO2 feeding plants to the plants processing those elements for humans. As water reaches the bottom of the sculpture, it’s cleaned and drinkable. Then this water eventually makes its way to the Hudson and East rivers and later to the ocean, where it helps build phytoplankton photosynthesis—foundations of the aquatic food web that provides most of the air humans breathe.

The following are Mattingly’s images of the project.

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