Joshua Lutz

COMMISSIONS: Amsterdam

Windmills from the roof of an abandoned building continue forever into the distance. Water quietly flows even through the smallest towns surrounding the city. In some areas the canals are still frozen, but the ice is far too thin to support the would-be skaters quietly sitting on a bench.

A few weeks after our son, Hudson, was born, and unsure of what to expect, we wrapped him up and headed to Amsterdam. It was for a commission to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson leaving Amsterdam for New York. Somehow the task of getting everything through security seemed far more daunting than anything Henry Hudson accomplished.

I was asked to respond to the concept of borders. What does it mean to be an American, a New Yorker, and to look at that relationship to Amsterdam’s surrounding areas? With that in mind, I knew I didn’t want to make some broad declarative statement about a place I knew little about. I tried to imagine what it would be like to see Amsterdam for the first time, to imagine it all through my newborn son's eyes.

I had spent so much time in New York looking at maps of Amsterdam, and thinking about the role of borders in relationship to the city. It was pretty much all I could do to ease my mind from the adrenaline rush that poured through me every time I thought about fatherhood.

It is hard to believe that I am here right now underneath the A10. This elevated beltway feels too obvious, too literal. The roar of cars above is deafening and I am worried Hudson is going to wake up from his nap. I want to show him a more peaceful setting: a sunrise on the canal; trees along a path; something beautiful for him to gaze upon. Driving north, urban sprawl seems to come to an end. The planned communities are no longer to blame and someone has decided, at least for the meantime, to let the pastures win. The sun sets and rises above us. As Hudson wakes from another nap he turns his head to find a ‘68 Caddy and its Frank Lloyd Wright counterpart fighting to mark their claim to American culture, somewhere on the borders of Amsterdam.