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Melissa McGill's public artwork transforms a castle ruin into a new constellation on the Hudson

The breathtaking landscape of the Hudson River Valley has long been a magnet for visitors and residents seeking a dynamic natural setting. In one dramatic stretch along the river, travelers encounter a vision that transports them to an entirely different time, hinting at a rich and mysterious history. Improbably, in the midst of captivating mountain and river views, the ruins of a Scottish-style castle and arsenal perch tenuously on Pollepel Island in the Hudson.

The unforgettable sight has mesmerized viewers since Bannerman’s Castle was built on the island in 1901. Just fifty miles north of Manhattan, Pollepel Island is the intersection of the striking natural landscape of the present and the intriguing legends of the past. Now internationally recognized artist Melissa McGill has transformed this ruin into a poetic and poignant experience for the community and visitors to the area.

The crumbling castle itself evokes a sense of otherworldliness. Add to this image the artist’s vision of a constellation of lights hovering around the perimeter of the castle ruin. The starry lights mark points along the ruins, then continue into the sky to map features of the structure that no longer exist, connecting history to the present moment, and to the heavens.

During the day, viewers see the series of 17 slender aluminum poles rising from the ruin on the island at heights ranging from 40 to 80 feet tall, creating a visual vertical rhythm around the ruin, drawing the eye upward while accentuating ideas of absence versus presence. Every evening, as the sun goes down, starry lights emerge one by one with the stars of the night sky, creating a new constellation and connecting past and present through this inspiring light-based public art project.

The timelessness of the island landscape and the vault of stars of above evoke the mystery of Pollepel’s distant past, even predating Bannerman’s Castle, as the work references the indigenous Lenape tribe’s legend of the Milky Way as a road that connects this world to the next. Visible from commuter trains, roadways, hiking trails and kayaks, but accessible only by boat, the castle ruins continue to captivate viewers even as they are being effaced by time and weather. Following the tradition of the Hudson River School, the project celebrates the exceptional natural beauty of the site, which is highlighted as this new constellation merges with the firmament above and shimmers in the Hudson River.

Sponsorship is inactive or expired. Fractured Atlas cannot accept donations for the purposes of Constellation at this time.
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$2,500 or more » Star Supporter

I have created a special signed artist edition Constellation table lamp, using the same sapphire hand blown glass globe mounted on a slender brushed aluminum pillar base as in the artwork – the LED has been specially programmed to slowly twinkle, just as the stars do in the night sky- essentially, your own star from this Constellation! I am offering this artist's edition as a thank you for a donation of $2500. If you make your donation by September 29, 2017, it will be doubled thanks to a matching grant provided by an anonymous donor.

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50+ Donations

Received a Grant

Raised $250,000