Emerging from decades of industrial dumping, this manmade land mass has gradually been reclaimed by natural processes and the ingenuity of local artist-recyclers. The pioneering squatters who turned it into a warren of camps in the 1990s have been forced to leave, but many of their creations remain, including a turreted castle with a heart-shaped patio. Artists continue to use "the Bulb" as a source of materials and inspiration, treating the rest of us to their free open-air museum. One enters the realm of the Sniff Collective through a triumphal arch, carved from washed-up Styrofoam and flanked by two fifteen-foot guardians. Working collaboratively, the collective's artists have transformed debris with a deft use of paint and sculptural techniques into a carnival midway of large paintings and installations. An unbridled aesthetic of cartoonish magic-realism and allegory evokes a Babylon-by-the-Bay, Bosch meets Gauguin meets Rivera in a drunken brawl at a biker bar. Artists can be found working there on weekends; stop by for a chat or, better yet, grab that old piece of rebar and start sculpting. The freedom and funkiness that have thrived here may not last. There are plans afoot to turn it into a manicured waterfront park. A small sign bears a quote by Albany's city administrator "if the artists want to keep their space ... They're going to have to stake a claim." Nearby stands another sign: "Claim No: 213. Claim made by: Sniff."
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