Hidden Language is a site-specific artwork created by Frank Parga for the lobby of the new Richard H. Hungerford School, Staten Island. It was inspired by the tulip trees found in the forest next to the school campus. The work is made of regionally sourced red oak wood panels that were cut, carved and hand-painted to look like a cross-section of a gigantic tree with its annual growth rings highlighted. Newly formed cells create the annual rings that provide information about a tree’s age and the environmental conditions that shaped its life. Each has its own variations in width dependent upon climate and atmospheric conditions among many other details. Thus, the rings are the tree’s “hidden language” revealing a record of its history and life.
Hidden Language was created to be both visually engaging and experiential. The artwork is intended to be experienced by touch where the tree rings are raised higher than the wood base. The piece offers viewers a moment to reflect on how every individual is shaped by their surroundings and interactions and has an opportunity to leave a mark on the people and places they encounter.
Text courtesy of the NYC School Construction Authority/Public Art for Public Schools program
Frank Parga – artist, muralist, and educator – has murals all around NYC. His work adorns walls in hospitals, hotels, office buildings, schools, and public spaces. He has been awarded grants, fellowships, and residencies from organizations nationwide, including Joshua Tree National Park, the Weir Farm Trust, Earthwatch Institute, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and the Visual Harlem Grant Program, among others. In addition to his artistic work, Frank is an educator and mentor for students at all levels.
Hidden Language was created as a part of the NYCSCA’s Public Art for Public Schools program. The program commissions artists to create on-campus pieces that are meant to “visually enhance the learning environment, serve as unique and exciting resources for teaching, and most of all, inspire students.” It is important that the artworks can be interpreted at many levels, so that learners can continue to engage as they grow physically and intellectually. Since the program’s inception in 1989, it has supported the creation and conservation of nearly 2000 artworks in New York City public schools.
To learn more about Frank Parga and his work, visit his website.
To read more about the NYCSCA’s Public Art for Public Schools program and its art collection, visit their website.