Gillie Schattner is a talented Australian artist who has a number of public art sculptures in and around New York City in partnership with her husband Marc. Gillie shares with us her New York experience as an artist and tells us about her work advocating for rhino conservation. This work led to the creation of The Last Three, a 17-foot-tall sculpture depicting the only three northern white rhinos left on the planet. Catch a glimpse of The Last Three at 2 Metrotech Center in Downtown Brooklyn where it is on display until the end of February 2019.
What do you say when people ask, “What do you do”?
I say, “I’m an artist!” Marc and I have our own gallery in Sydney, and public art around the world. We have quite a lot of our statues here in New York actually! Our Paparazzi Dogs live in the Rockefeller Centre, and one of our most recent pieces installed in this amazing city is called The Table of Love, and can be found on Park Avenue. We Go Together is on display at the Nomo Soho Hotel. We’re best known for our characters Rabbitwoman and Dogman, who tell the autobiographical tale of two opposites becoming best friends and soul mates. Without a race, religion, or culture they represent the acceptance of all people as one! We are also avid conversationalists and wildlife obsessed. A lot of our artworks, sculptures, prints, paintings, home ware, and jewelry are tailored around spreading awareness about endangered animals, so that people can be empowered to save them!
Speaking of endangered animals, tell us about your sculpture, The Last Three
Earlier this year, we installed a sculpture in Astor Place called The Last Three, which is now located at the Metrotech Center in Brooklyn. It features the last three Northern White Rhinos on the planet, Sudan, Najin, Fatu, who Marc and I met at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya last year. They’re the most gentle, kind and magnificent creatures on earth. It breaks my heart that their species is facing imminent extinction, and most of the world doesn’t even know about it! We created the 17-foot tall bronze artwork as a memorial to the Northern White Rhinos, so that their legacy could help save future species against rhino poaching. Now, everyone who sees the sculpture will have a connection to the Northern White Rhinos.
We wanted the entire world to get to know them as well, not just those who are in contact with the sculpture. One of the sponsors for the sculpture is an amazing company called INDE, who created an augmented reality app that enables everyone to see the Northern White Rhinos from their own home! It’s really incredible. People can adopt them, learn about them, and watch them interact with the surrounding area through the app. It looks so real! I’m amazed every time I see it! What’s even better is that each time Sudan, Najin or Fatu gets adopted through the app, INDE will donate part of the proceeds to Ol Pejeta Conservancy where they’re being cared for. Just search ‘INDE’ in your app store. I highly recommend everyone download it; it’s a great experience!
Since The Last Three was erected, one of the “last three” rhinos has passed away. How does this impact your vision for the sculpture?
Due to the tragic loss of Sudan, The Last Three has become more important than ever. The sculpture is now a powerful memorial to the Northern White Rhinos, who are on the brink of extinction with the death of the last male. When audiences engage with The Last Three, they’ll be both visibly and emotionally confronted with the realities of extinction. Humanity’s lack of action has caused this to happen. Sudan is the bottom rhino in the sculpture stack, eye level to viewers. We created him to identically represent the real animal. We studied Sudan for 12-months to be able to realistically convey his gentle sadness. The emotive power of art, we hope, will move people to action. The Last Three is a sculpture, a memorial, and a clear reminder of the critical need for successful rhino conservation.
Tell us a little about yourself and how you ended up in New York
Well, I was born in London, England but when I was two years old we moved to Africa and I spent most of my childhood in Zambia, where I discovered my love for art and animals. I used to draw pencil sketches of the beautiful wildlife around me. I met my husband Marc in Hong Kong during a photo shoot. He was from Australia, and worked in advertising, which led him to Hong Kong as well. Just seven days after meeting we eloped to Nepal and married on the foothills of Mt. Everest.
Marc and I always shared a mutual love for art and travel. We began painting and creating together, and moved to Singapore where we had our first exhibition. In Singapore, our daughter Jessie and son Ben were born. We love Singapore, but have always been drawn to New York City. It’s one of the most amazing places in the world! Between its art and social scene, beautiful architecture, amazing restaurants…everything really, it just feels like the center of the world! So, we decided to move here with our young children! We absolutely loved living in New York City, but with Marc being from Australia and me growing up in Africa, we don’t handle the cold very well, so after one particularly harsh winter we decided it was time to get back on the move and relocated to Sydney, which has been home ever since. My family loves the beach and hot Australian weather, but we have always left a piece of our hearts in New York. That’s why we have so much of our art here, and split our time between both cities. We could never really leave.
What do you like about being part of Australian Women in New York (AWNY)?
As a woman, it makes me feel proud having the opportunity to speak to other women, and share tips that will empower them to be their best selves! Having once upon a time been new to this city, I know how scary it can be. Being from Australia the opportunity to let other Australian woman know they are not alone, and help in any way I can, is something I truly cherish. Women are so strong, and you really see that coming into the limelight these days with so many incredible movements, like Time’s Up Now and Me Too. I think it’s so important that we stick together, and help build each other up!
What’s the next project for you and Marc?
The next major project that Marc and I are working on is called Statues for Equality, and will be an awe-inspiring collection of eight amazing women living today. It’s come to light recently that out of many hundreds of statues in New York, less than 2% depict real woman from history. Marc and I noticed this in our own work as well: of over 100 sculptures we’ve been commissioned to create, only one has been female! This realization appalled us! That’s why we decided to create Statues for Equality, to advocate for women’s rights through our art. There are so many amazing women living today who have captivating, inspiring stories worthy of remembering and being shared.
Our mission is to cherish these stories, while balancing out the number of women and men represented in public art, This will be the first step towards doing that!
Where in New York did you live?
Now we are based in Sydney, but we travel to New York frequently and used to live in Larchmont, Westchester. It was the perfect place for us at the time. Having two young children, it was nice to be out of the hustle and bustle of downtown New York. We loved having a garden, where we could play with Jessie and Ben outside. At the same time, we were only about 20 miles from Manhattan, so it was easy for us to get to the city!
What do you like or dislike about living in NY?
Oh, there is so much I love about living in New York. As an artist, I’m completely enamored by the art scene here…it’s the best in the world! From public art, to museums, galleries, and even the street art, there’s always something new to see. I also really appreciate how multicultural New York is. It draws in people from all over the world. The city is so diverse and accepting, it’s really beautiful and inspiring.
If I have to pick something I dislike, it would have to be the cold weather.
Tell us about an ‘only in New York’ moment you’ve had?
When Marc and I first moved to New York, we had to drive through three feet of snow and didn’t think much of it. Turns out it was far more difficult than we had imagined! While we were working our way through the snow, a busker stopped us. He was a poet, and read us some of his work right there in the cold. It’s the kind of thing that wouldn’t happen anywhere else, and is a very cherished memory.
Any advice for people moving to NY?
Talk to the locals! Google is a great starting point if you’re looking for something to do, but New Yorkers have the best advice. They’ll be able to tell you all about the great places to experience the latest food craze, which art exhibit not to miss, hints for getting around, and so much more. Chatting with the people you meet always leads to the most interesting destinations!
Any advice for people working in NYC?
Be nice to everyone you meet, and do favors for people. You never know how someone may help you in return one day.
Favorite NYC brunch spot?
I really enjoy having brunch in NoMo Kitchen at NoMo SoHo Hotel! They’ve created the most magical atmosphere to start your day in. It’s full of natural light, sparkling chandeliers, and lots of greenery! You’ll also get to meet Rabbitwoman and Dogman while you’re there. I just love it.
Favorite NYC cocktail spot and cocktail of choice?
I love the Untitled, the restaurant in the Whitney Museum, which is located in the Meatpacking District. We went there last night actually! My cocktail of choice is the Manhattan, which is made with whiskey, sweet vermouth, bitters and a cherry. I’ve been told theirs is the best in the city…I have to say, I completely agree!
What’s the biggest challenge or road block you’ve been faced with since being in NYC and how do you overcome it?
Creating and installing the The Last Three sculpture was the biggest project of our lives. There’s a lot that goes into making the world’s tallest rhino sculpture, and it wasn’t always smooth sailing. I feel very blessed to have the most amazing family and support system. When problems come up, I do my best to not spend much time dwelling on them and just start looking for solutions! You come to learn that there is almost always a solution if you search hard enough for it.
Who are some Aussie or Kiwi ladies doing awesome things in NYC who are currently on your radar?
I actually learned about Laura O’Neill through AWNY and love her story! Her ice cream is fantastic. I have a sweet tooth, so it’s definitely appreciated.
Connect with Gillie
Keep up to date with Gillie’s art projects at www.gillieandmarc.com, on Instagram (@gillieandmarcart) and Facebook. Gillie and Marc’s public art can be found over the world using this art map.
See The Last Three
The Last Three, Gillie and Marc’s 17-foot-tall sculpture depicting the only three northern white rhinos left on the planet is on view at 2 Metrotech Center in Downtown Brooklyn until February 2019.