Rowan Renee: The Perimeter Path

black and white hand art photo

June 3rd-September 4th 
Historic Chapel

Rowan Renee is a consummate researcher. Their creative practice is inspired by extensive study of archival materials, often in the pursuit of addressing systemic trauma and violence. This research in turn dictates the creation of their artwork, incorporating the visual and textual material that is uncovered. As Green-Wood’s 2022–2023 artist in residence, Renee spent over a year investigating the Cemetery’s public lots, which historically offered more affordable burial sites for the working class and poor. The resulting installation, The Perimeter Path, was their largest project to date, with hundreds of components meticulously crafted in marble, steel, glass, and stone. 

Renee focused their scope on unmarked graves in Public Lots 88 and 5499. Located near the Cemetery’s perimeter, the land was seen as less valuable because of its proximity to city streets. At first glance, these lots appear nearly empty, with little or no indication of the thousands of burials contained within them. Renee, in response, created an abundance of memorials. The Perimeter Path conjured a monument maker’s library of grave markers, filled with fragments of marble and glass that have been expertly preserved and carefully arranged. The rippling forms carved into the marble referenced parts of the body, decorative motifs from the Cemetery, and tools used to repair monuments. In glass pieces, traces of Green-Wood’s extensive archives appear, including notations from burial ledgers and photographs documenting damage to and the maintenance of monuments.

The Perimeter Path was conceived as an act of care for those at the margins of our collective memory. Renee creates a space to witness and remember those interred in unmarked graves and address inequalities in memorialization. The public is invited to participate in an act of communal remembrance by adding their own stones to cairns within the installation. 

To learn about the individuals researched for the creation of the installation and a map to the public lots visit:

The Perimeter Path was made possible with support from the New York State Council on the Arts.

Rowan Renee (b. 1985, West Palm Beach, Florida) is a genderqueer artist currently working in Brooklyn, NY. Their work addresses intergenerational trauma, gender-based violence and the impact of the criminal legal system through image, text and installation. They have been exhibited in solo exhibitions at Brooklyn’s Smack Mellon gallery (2021), FiveMyles in Crown Heights (2021), Aperture Foundation (2017), and Pioneer Works (2015). They have received awards from the Aaron Siskind Foundation, the Harpo Foundation and the Jerome Hill Foundation. You can learn more about their work and creative process on their website.