The Fountain of Life Dedication Plaque

  • The Fountain of Life is a bronze riot of ocean-going horses, putti, a mermaid and mer-man (who knew?) and crustaceans rising above fountains that gush water into a double basin. Created in 1905, it sits in front of the main building at the New York Botanical Garden. In 2005, the hundredth-anniversary renovation called for a sign. To avoid such an eyesore, our proposal was to repeat the bronze, installing a book on the edge of the basin. The title is carved into the front cover: The Lillian Goldman Fountain of Life.

    And who could resist making a title plaque for “The Fountain of Life”? For me, the metaphor of a book is a far-reaching one. A book, you know, is also a fountain. As an occasional book designer, it was particularly gratifying to create the sculpture myself. I had to learn how to work with clay, and see it all the way through plaster casting, type carving, wax casting, bronze casting and patina. I could have simply cast a book, but that process seemed to rob the idea of poetry. In fact, this book was modeled on an anthology of poetry I inherited from my mother, so the “Fountain of Life” idea is intrinsic in many ways.