3… 2… 1… Numbers take on a whole new meaning with Anita Glesta's large-scale public artwork, “The Census Project.” Occupying over seven acres at the United States General Services Administration's Art in Architecture Program (GSA) at the United States Census Bureau Headquarters in Suitland, Md., the permanent display imbues ordinary numerical symbols with a mythical grandeur to give personal meaning to the abstract data and numbers of the census.
Glesta drew on the diverse cultures of the United States, including Asian and Native American, as a means to honor the many cultures and ethnicities of the millions of people represented in the census of the United States.
I'm personally fascinated by the amount of detailed research Glesta put in to this large-scale work. These historical details include information on the diverse use of numerical symbols in Native American cultures. For example, she found that Sioux Indians gave early census takers bundles of sticks to indicate size of families. Glesta incorporates various numerical systems, including Native American and Asian, to evoke a mystical quality in everyday numbers and to recognize the role of these different cultures in our one nation.
Additionally, the project features a winding pathway and series of playful reliefs associated with numbers and counting, including whimsical disruptions of traditional numerical order. Over-sized numbers serve as outdoor seating areas. The work will be officially inaugurated on July 12.
"This was a very exciting commission because I used a variety of materials, hand painted tiles, pavers and landscaping in order to respond to both the essence of what data means (and what is census), and to the scale of the site," says Glesta. "The work was six years in the making, and I feel gratified that I have been able to humanize date and call attention to the historical diversity of the population of the United States through this work. The work also provides the employees of census a visually compelling environment to both look at and to physically utilize through my incorporation of numerical bench/sculptures."
Anita Glesta is recognized globally for her large-scale, public art projects. These include the “Yurong Water Gardens" in Sydney, Australia; the “Pedazos" response to 9/11 in Williamsburg; and “Gernika/Guernica"; and "Desde el Cielo Hasta el Fondo,” exhibited in Manhattan and internationally.