Tuesday, April 3, 2007

"East Side, West Side . . ."

Ok, so it's not always easy to go between the East and West sides in Manhattan. There's the Shuttle and the L line, and a couple of uptown/downtown lines that zig-zag through the City, but the quickest option for crosstown trips when you're not near one of these lines is still a bus (or a cab if you have deeper pockets). I ride the subway every day and, honestly, I enjoy it! Sure New Yorkers complain incessantly about it and the Straphangers Association regularly releases reports about the declining quality and quantity of service. Weekends can be nightmarish for subway riders because of maintenance on several key lines. Indeed, considering the service disruptions and rerouting, I don't see how tourists - particularly those without a great command of English - find their way around. We complain about the cost, but it's still easier and cheaper than either taking a cab or driving and finding parking.

Thus when one considers the volume of ridership and the number of stations to maintain, the MTA does a pretty good job of making the system work. My kids, of course, love riding the subway - and all trains. And I've learned that my younger son, nearly 7 now, enjoys hearing about the history of the subway, particularly when it comes to abandoned stations. (For more information about old stations, abandoned platforms, etc., check out the boatload - seriously! - of information on the Forgotten New York website.) We also visit the Transit Museum in Brooklyn and climb aboard the numerous surviving examples of long-retired subway cars, including some from the earliest days of the system. (If you ever wondered how subway riders came to be called "straphangers," visit the Transit Museum and check out the canvas straps on those early cars!)

Naturally, I'm interested in the architecture of the stations and the artistic effort that went into constructing the original system. Indeed, when one looks at photographs of original stations and finds surviving bits and pieces in today's system, one has to be amazed at the aesthetic appeal of the subway, even while admiring it as an engineering feat. The tile work and terra cotta medallions in particular are stunning. Luckily some of the station renovations of the last decade have included attempts to save these old architectural elements, or the designers have tried to echo some of that hundred-year-old artistic energy.

I've painted images from the subway before, including an early series on the station medallions, but this latest effort - from the Borough Hall station in Brooklyn - is the best, I think. In addition to using watercolor, I added some pen and ink accents (a new element in my painting, to be used sparingly as I experiment).


One Wink at a Time said...

Very interesting content and I love the painting. Oooh, do I sound like a spammer? :-Þ

One Wink at a Time said...

Hope you're doing well and enjoying a Happy Easter >:3
Does that look like a bunny???