Volume 73, Number 49 | April 7 - 13, 2004

An artist finds tranquility inside pavement labyrinths

By Melanie Wallis

A labyrinth design on the sidewalk at Union Sq. will be repainted over the following weeks by Diana Carulli, an internationally renowned artist and Greenwich Village resident. It takes four to five, five-hour sessions to complete the retouching of the labyrinth, which Carulli, with help from volunteers, does twice a year. The labyrinth was originally painted at the end of 1999, after it took Carulli four years to gain approval from the Parks and Recreation Department for the project.

The design, located at 17th St. between Broadway and Park Ave., is a green color, like a vine, in keeping with the farmers market on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. “It has the suggestions of greenery, vegetables, fruit and flowers in an abstract form,” Carulli said, “you are supposed to keep the vine between your feet,” she added, referring to how a person walks the labyrinth.

The labyrinth design is a round, swirl pattern, similar to a maze and it is thought that walking a labyrinth brings focus and clarity “It clears thoughts…it gives insight to walk in that way,” Carulli said. Carulli notes that the labyrinth has a multitude of functions, from being a work of art and a method of meditation to an efficient use of space for people to exercise when the lines of the labyrinth are followed.

“It’s a great way to use space, it amplifies the space by crossing back and forth around the circle,” she said. Carulli walks a labyrinth at least once a month and she thinks that a lot of people will walk the labyrinth this month as part of a spring ritual. Though not all may recognize what the painting on the ground symbolizes, she thinks the concept has recently made a comeback. “There has been a revival of interest and many people understand what it is,” she said.

The reactions Carulli receives from passersby when she is doing her repainting are mostly positive. “People are intrigued about what I am doing,” she said. “Most people are very thankful and happy.”

The project materials are usually donated. This year the paint has been provided by an Indiana-based company called One Shot Corporation, which has developed a very strong, enamel paint.

Curulli, 57, a native New Yorker, has lived in Greenwich Village for more than 20 years. Among her other outdoor exhibits in New York are another labyrinth at Pier 84 (43rd St. and 12th Ave.). She has recently finished a commissioned project in Finland and is currently involved in a three-year work in progress in Paestum, Italy. In Italy she will be designing a labyrinth out of botanical materials at an agricultural tourism site.

As for the future, Carulli hopes to find a site or sites that could support a more durable labyrinth, made out of a different material such as concrete and is currently hoping to have her art considered for a location in the Hudson River Park.

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