Park update: The High Line – Moynihan Connector and the High Line’s Coach Passage and Spur at 30th St. & 10th Ave. will be closed on Wednesday, September 20.

Skip to content
NYC native plants

Delve deeper into the character, beauty, and utility of the important native plants that call the park home.

Photo by Liz Ligon

Paola Pivi

You know who I am

April 2022 – March 2023

On the High Line at 16th Street

Paola Pivi’s interdisciplinary artistic practice combines the familiar with the bizarre. She is known for transposing live animals and common objects—ranging from helicopters to cappuccinos—to unexpected settings. Some of her best-known striking tableaux include Untitled (zebras), two zebras standing on a snowy mountain—shown on the High Line Billboard in 2012—as well as 84 goldfish flying coach, and a gallery filled with frolicking feathered polar bears in highlighter-bright hues. In all her work, Pivi uses strategies of displacement and overabundance to disorient and shift viewers’ expectations of rules, categories, and boundaries. Her parallel universes offer opportunities to shift points of view on divisions we take for granted.

You know who I am is a large-scale cast bronze replica of the Statue of Liberty wearing various cartoonish masks. The masks are stylized portraits of individuals whose personal experiences of freedom are directly connected to the United States. The masks will change every few months, representing five different people over the course of the exhibition. The work stands twenty-three feet above the High Line on the Northern Spur Preserve. From this vantage, visitors can also see the original Lady Liberty to the south in New York Harbor. Pivi’s replica was manufactured at Fonderia Artistica Battaglia, a bronze casting foundry established in Milan in 1913. This replica follows a direct line to the original sculpture by Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi. To create a scale replica, Pivi worked from a historic plaster cast of the original bronze model created by Bartholdi himself, which is now on view at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

The five emoji-inspired masks are playful and colorful, contrasting the streamlined, lighthearted portraiture of personalized digital cartoons with the staid monumentality of the statue. Each mask represents an individual whose experience of freedom is connected to the United States, offering the sentiment that anyone could be represented within the symbol of the statue. For this commission, Pivi, an Italian artist who has lived in Alaska since 2006, was inspired by her family’s experience. Pivi’s son had been living stateless in India when he adopted Pivi and her husband. The three of them endured a four-year legal battle in India to bring the boy home, a journey that concluded with her son gaining a pathway to citizenship in the US. During this struggle, the Statue of Liberty became an invaluable beacon for Pivi’s son, a symbol of the human rights and freedom that could be possible for him in the US.

For You know who I am, Pivi expands on her family’s experience, depicting in the masks four additional individuals whose freedom has been connected to the US, and inviting them to share their own stories. For some, their story may be about having gained or hoping to gain greater freedoms upon entering the US; for others, the US may represent a denied dream of freedom. Stories from the five people pictured, beginning with Pivi’s son, will be available for visitors on the High Line’s website. You know who I am engages conversations about legal and symbolic freedoms available in the US, and how these freedoms are sought by people living around the world. In Pivi’s engagement with this subject matter, the artist also considers the US’s limitations on freedom.

Organized by Cecilia Alemani, Donald R. Mullen, Jr. Director & Chief Curator of High Line Art and Melanie Kress, Curator of High Line Art.

Discover resources related to immigration in the US and the five people portrayed on the artwork →

Paola Pivi, You know who I am is organized by Cecilia Alemani, Donald R. Mullen Director & Chief Curator of High Line Art and Melanie Kress, High Line Art Associate Curator.

Learn more about the person featured on the sculpture

Yéil Yádi Olson is an Indigenous artist, carpenter, union stagehand, and commercial fisherman living in Anchorage, Alaska. His mask for You know who I am represents the unrecognized and underrepresented histories of Indigenous people in North America who were there before the migration of European settlers in the 17th century. For the artwork, Yéil Yádi wanted to share both his story and the story of his grandfather, Harvey Wiliams, also known as Xoots. Yéil Yádi was born in San Francisco, California, in 1972, to an Indigenous mother and a white father. He moved to Alaska at the age of 21 to be closer to his grandparents and to reconnect with his Raven clan heritage, which deteriorated over generations through campaigns of erasure and assimilation perpetuated by US colonialism. His grandfather Xoots was a Suḵteineidee Raven of the Ḵaa Shaayi Hít (Severed Head House) from the southeast Alaskan town of Ḵéix̱’ Ḵwáan (Kake, Alaska). In 1922, at the age of eight, Xoots was removed from his home and sent to a boarding school in Washington state to be assimilated into “American culture.”

Yéil Yádi is the youngest child of Harvietta, also known as Ees Stooge, and Gary Olson. Ees Stooge moved to the Bay Area outside of San Francisco, California, at the age of 24 to live near her two older sisters. Ees Stooge had alopecia and opened and ran a wig store that also sold jewelry in Daly City, California. Gary ended up in San Francisco due to his work with the US Navy and later worked in the telephone industry. Yéil Yádi’s parents met at the party of a mutual friend. While his mother was alive, Yéil Yádi frequently visited his family in Alaska, but less often after she passed away in a car accident when he was eight. He spent the rest of his childhood in San Francisco with his father, sister, stepmother, and two step-siblings.

In 1993, when Yéil Yádi was 21 years old, he moved to Anchorage, Alaska, to be closer to his ancestral homeland and maternal family. There he became interested in being part of the ongoing Tribal Sovereignty Movement of Alaska, which advocates for autonomy over ancestral land, in an effort to reverse the grim effects of the constitutional federal Indian policy that granted the federal government primary responsibility for dealing with tribal affairs.

Yéil Yádi learned most of the information about his grandparents from his aunt, Walleen, who stayed in Alaska. His grandfather, Xoots was born in 1914 in Ḵéix̱’ Ḵwáan, a village in the southeast region of Alaska, and was the oldest child. At the age of eight, Xoots was taken and sent to a boarding school for Indigenous children in Washington state. He was raised speaking Lingít, the language of the Indigenous people of southeast Alaska, but stopped using the language when he left home. According to Yéil Yádi, “He never used it again, but I knew he understood some because he’d laugh at gatherings when other elders made jokes in our language.” Xoots was later transferred to Sheldon Jackson, another boarding school in Sheet’ka Ḵwáan (Sitka, Alaska), and later to the Wrangell Institute in Wrangell, Alaska. At the Wrangell Institute, he met Marietta Williams, also known as Shaanax̱dujoon, a T’aḵdeintaán Raven. Xoots and Shaanax̱dujoon were married and moved to Sitka where they had eight children. Xoots became a commercial fisherman on a power troller that caught wild salmon. Yéil Yádi describes his grandfather as a stoic, patient man and shares how his grandparents loved their culture and the food, even if they had been discouraged and “retaught” at the Christian-run boarding schools.

Tragically, six out of Xoots’ and Shaanax̱dujoon’s eight children have passed away—four from cancer, one from a fishing accident, and Yéil Yádi’s mother, Ees Stooge, in a drunk driving accident. Yéil Yádi shares how most of his family moved away from their ancient homeland, and how difficult it is to be a T’aḵdeintaan Raven living so far from their ancestral land. It’s another example of the enduring effect of coercive assimilation, erasure, and ultimately, displacement, and inherited trauma that Indigenous people continue to face.

Today, Yéil Yádi lives in Anchorage, Alaska, and shares his excitement around some of the decolonization efforts to preserve Indigenous culture in Alaska, such as the movement to preserve some of the endangered Indigenous languages such as Lingít, by reteaching the language to the younger generation. Yéil Yádi also shares how Alaska is currently going through an artistic renaissance. Yéil Yádi himself is an artist and craftsman, has been an apprentice to a traditional weaver who taught him the ancient Raven’s Tail weaving style, and has learned traditional regalia, a type of beading work used to create ceremonial garb.

Learn more about Norbu, whose mask was featured on the sculpture from April — June 2022.

Learn more about Marco, whose mask was featured on the sculpture from July — October 2022.

Learn more about Mahnaz Akbari, whose mask was featured on the sculpture from October — December 2022.

Learn more about Forbah, whose mask was featured on the sculpture from December 2022 – February 2023.

Artist bio

Paola Pivi (b. 1971, Milan, Italy) lives and works in Anchorage, Alaska. Recent solo exhibitions have been featured at institutions including Arken Museum of Modern Art, Ishøj, Denmark (2020); The Bass Museum, Miami Beach, Miami, Florida (2018); Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia (2018); La Rinascente, Milan, Italy (2017); Dallas Contemporary, Dallas, Texas (2016); FRAC Bourgogne, Dijon, France (2014); National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia (2014); Witte de With, Rotterdam, Netherlands (2013); and Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai, China (2012). Public solo commissions include High Line Art, New York, New York (2012) and Public Art Fund, New York, New York (2012). Notable group exhibitions include Io dico Io – I say I, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Rome, Italy (2021); Trittico, Fondazione Prada, Milan, Italy (2016); and Senso Unico, MOMA PS1, New York, New York (2007). Major international exhibitions include the Yokohama Triennial, Japan (2018) and the 48th Venice Biennale, Italy (1999).


Fonderia Artistica Battaglia aims to share their historical expertise in artistic bronze, initiating contemporary artists into the practice. You know who I am was Pivi’s first artwork cast in bronze; the team at Battaglia guided her throughout the fabrication process.

Paola Pivi, You know who I am, is made possible, in part, by an in-kind donation from Matteo Visconti, Fonderia Artistica Battaglia, Milan, and support from Perrotin and Massimo De Carlo; with thanks to the engineering firm Pro Iter, Milan.

The title You know who I am was conceived by Karma Culture Brothers.