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February 29, 2012

Hey! This project won’t be out in public for a few months, but I received copies and couldn’t help but share.

Last summer I received an exciting phone call from the MTA Arts For Transit program here in NYC to produce one of their yearly commemorative subway posters. Technically this is an advertisement for the MTA, but it really serves as a way to put more art on the walls of the subway stations.

Since living here for over four years now I’ve come to love New York. As my fondness grew, I began to dwell on the idea of  contributing back to the city with my own art– to be a part of the landscape in some way. In many ways this city has really made my career, so to be able to showcase one of my paintings all over the five boroughs is exciting and very humbling.

The wonderful part about this assignment was how open-ended the parameters were. Really, I was simply asked to pay homage to the mass transit system (“in any way, big or small, that you want”) and to set the image in New York– otherwise, anything goes. When it came to such a task, my thought process was pretty direct; since I would rather draw trees than buildings, Central Park was the first and only choice on my list of locations.

Being an out-of-towner, the subway system fascinates me– it’s much more than a way to get around. By its very nature, crowding into a subway station or rail car with other strangers brings people together from all walks of life, but, more so, the trains can deliver us to new places and provide exciting experiences. In a symbolic way, this is the concept I wanted to bring forth in the image.

Ultimately the image that was decided on is a romantic version of bringing people together. We see two hopeless romantics floating near the famous Bow Bridge, smitten in love. In the background, as if to say “this is how we got here…”, are two curiously similar people by the station entrance. The original idea was much more surreal, but in the end this was how it was represented.

Some of the process:

Besides the main narrative I wanted to tip my hat to some of the local things about New York I have come to love and respect since moving here.  Spotted throughout the picture are fun little details that you may recognize:

On the radio: WNYC 93.9. Shout out to Leonard Lopate and Brian Lehrer.

Two New York icons on the bridge: Jay-Z chilling and Babe Ruth calling his shot.

Off in the distance: Man on Wire.

Subway station entrance: FDNY Engine 54, commonly considered the very first responders on 9/11.

Off in the clouds on the Dakota’s facade: John Lennon’s ghost!

Making a picture with such a vast landscape was a major challenge for me, but challenges are good! It was definitely a situation that was easy to draw in a sketch, but when making the final becomes “…now how am I going to make that?!” I should definitely say thank you to the art directors for trusting me.

The color translated well from computer to print and wow are these things big. I am more than excited to see the poster hanging in the city– the thought of it actually gives me some anxiety. I make art that I want people to look at; I want it to be published and out in the world. However, something about this project, being so large and so visible, really feels like I am fully exposing myself in a way that I am not used to. It’s exciting and nerve-racking at the same time.

Look for it around the city in the Spring!