A new bronze sculpture by Bulgarian-American artist Dimitar Lukanov was unveiled in the city of Amsterdam, NY, on May 17. Mother and Child at the Mohawk River commemorates the city’s rebirth from an industrial and manufacturing hub to a modern, business-friendly community. The 12-foot-tall statue’s located at the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook Pedestrian Bridge, which opened in 2016 and is the nation’s only river bridge to be planted with live trees. “The Overlook Bridge is one of the most unique bridges I’ve seen,” says Lukanov. “It’s essentially a floating park over water with grown trees and flowerbeds.”
Lukanov’s sculpture fits perfectly within the context of the waterfront: It depicts a mother and her child surrounded by a vivid whirl of local wildlife and plants from the Mohawk River (birds, fish, plants and flowers). The Mohawk flows straight through Amsterdam and was instrumental in the city’s past manufacturing boom. Now, it’s more emblematic of the closeness to nature that has come to define much of the upstate experience. Lukanov’s composition is all about this swirling interaction between humans and nature; there’s never a moment of stillness between the two. If you’re sensing a strong Mother Nature motif here, there’s a reason for that. “I was inspired by the paradisaical beauty of the lush and fertile land we live on here in Upstate New York,” explains the artist. Lukanov was born in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, in 1969, but he has an intimate connection with New York: He studied on a full scholarship in New York and received his MFA from Columbia University in 1997. On top of this, Lukanov’s work has been featured all across New York State, including a commissioned, three-piece sculpture unveiled at JFK International Airport in 2014.
Lukanov’s bronze sculpture won’t be his last for New York—or even Amsterdam. The city commissioned a total of three pieces of public artwork from him, and considering it took about three months to complete Mother and Child, Lukanov’s certainly got his work cut out for him. However, it sounds like he’s already got a lot of it figured out: “The two upcoming pieces are utterly different from Mother and Child,” the artist tells me. “One, Waterfall Gates, is inspired by the Chuctanunda [Creek’s] cascade that runs through Amsterdam. The other, Dream River, is an homage to the Mohawk River. All three sculptures subscribe to different technical processes and use of materials.” The three pieces may be different, but there’s at least one thing they’ll all have in common: a love and respect for Upstate New York’s most precious resource—its natural surroundings.