That’s What She Said
Duke Riley

Organized on the occasion of the release of Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro’s forthcoming New York City Atlas, Nonstop Metropolis, the Queens Museum’s Nonstop Metropolis: The Remix takes inspiration from the book’s maps and essays. The New York City Atlas is the third in Solnit’s series, following Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas and in Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas. With our very own, one-of-a-kind, 3-D map here at the Museum—the Panorama of the City of New York—as well as a deep commitment to the many issues Solnit raises in her books, the Queens Museum has commissioned two new projects by New York-based artists Duke Riley and Mariam Ghani in anticipation of the book’s launch at the Museum.

Mounted in an intimate dialogue with the 1939 WPA model of the New York Watershed, Duke Riley’s sprawling drawing That’s What She Said, 2016, is yet another unique portrait of New York City. Chronicling the city’s eventful history with water, the 44 foot long drawing is inspired and informed by Water and Power, essayist Heather Smith’s contribution to Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas, Rebecca Solnit and Josh Jelly-Schapiro’s soon to be published atlas of New York. Smith, and now Riley, explore the important role played by water in New York City’s rise to economic and political power.

Riley’s long-standing fascination with waterfronts, their denizens, and their stories, prompted the mural as a way to visually chronicle Smith’s portrayal of the city. His signature artistic style interweaves humor and irony in his depiction of historical and contemporary events with elements of fiction and myth to narrate allegorical histories of the city.

With imagery dating as far back as the 10th Century, Riley draws upon a wide variety of historical references curiously connected to New York’s much heralded local water. From the conception and construction of the Aswan Dam in Egypt and the consequential gifting of the Temple of Dendur to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1967, and New York’s ongoing tales of water rights and acquisition processes, to hydroelectric water generators near the Canadian border and the Indian Point Energy Center on the banks of the Hudson River just north of the city limits, That’s What She Said is a panoramic narrative of the aquatic power structure that sustains New York City as we know it today.