Curtain Call, 2023. Photo: Elisabeth Bernstein

Object Lessons: Karon Davis

I come from a dance background. Both of my parents are dancers—I came out of the womb, and they were like, “Here are your tap shoes, here are your ballet shoes.” I had a show coming up in New York, and Curtain Call seemed like the perfect subject matter; it was where my heart was leading me. So, we found a dancer—her name is Jasmine Perry—the only Black dancer in the Los Angeles Ballet, and she was kind enough to come in and do the curtain call. In the gallery version, she is bowing in front of 7,000 pointe shoes, because a company goes through 7,000 shoes in a year. It’s the end of the season, and you see this mass of shoes behind her—that’s how I envisioned the piece in the studio.

When the High Line asked me to do something, I knew that I wanted to bring this piece out on
the street, and we decided to make her big. Now, as she bows, she’s six feet tall. We did the 3D scan
in the studio and then brought her down to a beautiful foundry in Mexico. The High Line version is bronze, and I was very nervous about my works losing their soul because bronze can be so cold.
So, I had to figure out how to make it look like my work, my hand outside. I wanted to find a formula that would make it look like my gallery piece, but patinaed white. And we had to figure out the eyeballs. For the High Line, we had huge eyeballs made for her—they fit in the palm of my hand. I also thought it would be really beautiful to bring the flowers out and make them large and gushing onto the ground while surrounded by plants on the High Line—like how they bring out huge bouquets to the dancers. The flowers are bronze, too, with red and green patina. I’m just so excited to be making bronzes because it feels so traditional and so old.

Curtain Call, a High Line commission, is on view through November 2024.