When she moved to Weston in 1968, Carole Eisner started welding as a hobby. Nearly 50 years later, her biggest welding work to date is prominently displayed in one of the most popular parks in New York City.
Four large sculptures created by Eisner are located throughout 585 acres in Prospect Park in the heart of Brooklyn. Approximately eight million people visit the park every year.
The sculptures, named Dancer, Zerques, Skipper and Valentine II, are placed in central locations around the park and range from six to 17 feet tall. They are Eisner’s largest sculptures.
Dancer and Skipper sit at two of the park’s main entrances, while Zerques is plotted in front of Litchfield House, the Brooklyn borough headquarters of the New York City Parks and Recreation Department, located in the middle of Prospect Park.
Valentine II is located further into the park on a peninsula in front of the lake.
Eisner, who grew up in the Bronx and has owned the same apartment in Manhattan since 1970, had never been to Brooklyn until her son moved there 10 years ago and had never been to Prospect Park until she took a tour of her work.
“All of the excitement is in Brooklyn now,” said Eisner. “I knew I really wanted my work to be displayed there.”
Each of the four sculptures is made from rolling and twisting different I-Beams, a common form of structural steel often used in construction and civil engineering projects. The beams look like the capital letter “I” with horizontal lines on the top and bottom.
“As far as I know, I’m the only welder using I-Beams right now,” said Eisner. “I wanted to do something new creatively that I have never seen before, so I did it just for the fact that I could.”
Eisner became intrigued with I-Beams because she “has always loved lines and the way that lines look in open space” and believed that I-Beams encapsulated lines and movement very well.
The Prospect Park exhibit opened on May 15 and will run for about a year. It is Eisner’s third New York exhibition.
In 2009, nine of Eisner’s sculptures were displayed on Broadway between West 62nd and West 66th Street.
In 2013, Eisner’s sculpture, Hosea, was located in Tramway Plaza on Second Avenue in Manhattan. The piece was visible to people using the Roosevelt Island Tram next to the Queensboro Bridge and featured a large railway gear placed on top of three steel legs.
Eisner’s works have also been displayed in Belgium, France, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Florida.
Additionally, her Sachem Road property in Weston resembles a miniature sculpture park and is artfully dotted with decades worth of her pieces.
Art wasn’t prevalent in Eisner’s life growing up, but she found herself intrigued by creative expression at a young age.
“I would take the subway to Manhattan on my days off to go to the art museums,” she said. “The Museum of Modern Art was my favorite one and I always went back.”
Eisner attended Taft High School in the Bronx and Syracuse University as an art student. After she graduated, she became a sketcher for New York-based designers before getting a job as a sportswear designer.
In 1961, at the age of 24, she received the coveted Mademoiselle Magazine award for younger fashion designers.
After she launched a fashion line and worked heavily on it for three years, she retired to take care of her five kids full time.
Not one to be stifled creatively, Eisner started painting to fill a void she was feeling for artistic expression.
“I always have to be creative,” she said. “I was painting just to fill up the walls in my house.”
After becoming a “part-time Weston resident” in 1968, Eisner grew friendly with a neighbor and started attending welding classes together in Westport put on by Weston-based sculptor and jewelry designer Marge Walzer.
“Before I started the class I didn’t even know what welding was,” said Eisner, who became intrigued by the medium. “I love it because it really makes you feel powerful.”
While Eisner almost exclusively works with I-Beams now, she spent years going to junkyards and buying scrap metal for her work, taking fragments from buildings and bridges to create her sculptures. She focused on creating works that looked industrial and heavy.
According to Eisner, a sculpture in her backyard called “Mianus” features what she believes are scrapped pieces of the Mianus bridge that collapsed in Greenwich in 1983.
“I generally work like my sculpture is a collage,” said Eisner. “I take things that look like they want to be together and I put them together.”
To Eisner, the appeal of working with steel was that she could add and subtract elements to her work whenever she saw fit.
In recent years, Eisner began taking some of her old sculptures and painting them, effectively breathing new life into pieces that she once considered finished.
“Life is too complex to stick to one thing,” she said. “I get restless, I change, I grow and I see new things.”
Her approach to her work is to transcend tradition and find ways to create something that she has never seen before.
“I like the unexpected,” she said. “My work should showcase movement, it shouldn’t be static.”
Locally, Eisner’s sculptures are on display at Veteran’s Park in Norwalk. She is grateful for her partnership with park management, which has an “open-door” policy with her and lets her display whatever pieces she wants on its grounds when space is available.
“I’m thrilled to always have my works on display in that beautiful park,” said Eisner.
She is currently painting an older piece in her garage turned studio at her Weston home. She has small models built for her next I-Beam piece but isn’t sure exactly when that will be made.
Eisner hopes to spend the summer working on her next artistic vision, but hasn’t decided how she will express herself in the future.
“Some artists repeat themselves, but I don’t want to do that,” said Eisner. “After I’ve run through a phase I am on to the next thing.”
To view more of Eisner’s work online, visit her website, caroleeisner.com.