“Spring Arisen” (section)
“Bronx Seasons Everchanging”
Installation Date: December 2018
Medium: Printed/Glazed/Kiln-Fired Porcelain Tiles and Smalti Mosaic Tiles
Dimensions: 46" x 320" each (8 murals)
Commissioning Agency: New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA)
Fabricators: Miotto Mosaic Art Studios, Inc. (USA) & Travisanutto Mosaics (Italy)
Location: NYC Subway Station B/D Line 174-75th Street
Description: This eight, mural commission, “Bronx Seasons Everchanging”, is based on my experiences during mindfulness, walking meditation connecting with nature in a dense, urban environment. I often practice this discipline, walking aimlessly and experiencing consciousness on a more expansive level. In doing so, I disconnect from modern living complexity and frenetic, city energy to instead spatially commune with the pervading and everchanging beauty of the seasons. It is here I find order and healing expansion. And dynamic moments of nature infusing and surrounding city clamor. It is here I found inspiration for "Bronx Seasons Everchanging".
In NYC, I "ride the subway rails" almost daily. Mine is the B/D subway line and I frequently use the commission location site (174th-175th Street Subway Station). I knew well the layout, surrounding environment, interplays, psychological impacts in terms of personal usage, and how public art could have greatly improved this location. Many times, on those platforms, I conjectured just how much a fresh infusion of color and nature, executed as tile murals in a contemporary context, could positively affect user experience and location improvement.
“Early Fall Chill”
I am a 21st Century Modernist. My language is one of geometry, line, the rich, complex interplay of color, and the dynamic balance between simplicity and complexity. And although my expression is ultra-contemporary and "clean", my homage is first to emotional feeling, and to beauty. And often nature. This mural series began by building very complex compositions (expressing seasonal periods) from a wide array of color blocks (resembling pixilation). Designs were created with graphic design programs and I created color connections between murals through “color shifting”. Compositional arrangements created a visual scintillation and made the viewer's eye "dance". Although these backgrounds were compositionally complete, I then built off those grounds, as background landscapes, adding upward, design layers that integrate with, and play off, the lower layers of composition for full statement expression. Of eight, nature transition, mural designs, final works titles were: 1) Of Winter, 2) Winter Always Turns to Spring, 3) Early Spring Rains, 4) Spring Arisen, 5) Spring into Summer Mandala, 6) Verdant is Summer, 7) Early Fall Chill, and 8) Falling is Autumn. My hope was to bring the beauty, inspiration, strength, positive impact, and the renewal of nature to station platforms and MTA riders through these works.
“Early Spring Rains”
Each mural design was comprised of many colors, and, in this case, traditional mosaic medium could simply not provide me with the subtle nuances of tints and shades in my mural designs. I also had concerns of audience views being directly in front of these murals, and as far away as across the platforms. I wanted to avoid the optical mixing used in traditional, mosaic techniques. Instead, I sought a clean and crisp visual appearance, one rife with dynamic color. Much of my work has to do with connections between the past, present, and future. In keeping with that, the ultra-contemporary look of these murals, and my embracement of technology, I instead selected to use a novel, hybrid medium. All mural, color block backgrounds were laserjet printed on porcelain tiles, glazed, and kiln fired. Some upper layer designs were printed as well, but the majority of upward layer, design element areas were instead robotically, waterjet cut out from the printed/glazed/fired porcelain tiles. The murals were then completed by having all cut out area cavities traditionally hand-filled with smalti, mosaic tiles by mosaic artisans. Although complex in execution, and requiring many, design files with precision, process steps, this hybrid medium was incredibly successful. The murals are rich in both color variation and nuance, maintaining the durability of traditional mosaics while in an ultra-contemporary look indicative of my art style.
“Spring into Summer Mandala”
"South Bronx Pride Totem"
Installation Date: January 2019
Medium: Steel and Wood
Dimensions: 240" x 55" x 45"
Commissioning Agency: New York City Department of Transportation (Urban Arts Division)
Community Component Organization: Youth Action YouthBuild of East Harlem
Location: Intervale Avenue at Dawson Street Traffic Roundabout
Partial Fabrication by: Specialty Steel
Description: Honoring the South Bronx community historically progressive in diversity and inclusion, this universal, pride totem draws from design elements from totems of many, different cultures to represent inclusion as well as this rich and harmonious, community melting pot.
In researching this project, I discovered General Colin Powell (statesmen and retired four-star general) grew up near this South Bronx site location. Throughout his political career, he said that much of what he has learned, carried with him throughout his life, and applied regarding diversity unification, he learned at “Banana Kelly”. He is referring to Banana Kelly High School and to Kelly Street (which curves “like a banana”) where he lived, which adjoins the proposed DOT public art location site at Kelly Park. He cites that many different ethnicities and cultures co-existed in this neighborhood of the Bronx and demonstrated the possibility of living together in a unified, positive way. This cultural integration, diversity recognition, and cultural cross-pollination (along with Bronx, urban growth built on the foundation of this blending) became the impetus for my sculptural concept and statement.
As Neil DeGrasse Tyson has expressed, "We are not special because we are all different; we are all special because we are the same." I seek commonalities for my work to be successful in the public domain. I do recognize and celebrate human differences, but it is crucial to me as a public artist to find that relatable, common ground for the general public to universally embrace, find inspiration, and reap enjoyment through my work. As many of my other public art projects, I sought to find community commonality for project relevancy and success. With such population diversity in this community, I had to dig deep to find a shared, cultural bond.
Referencing the history of this area, I found this area to be originally inhabited by the Lenape Native Americans. Totems are indigenous to Native American culture. But, through research, I also found that ALL cultures stem from ancestral, tribal cultures. And all tribal cultures throughout the world had totems. Totems signify a people, their connection to Spirit, a people’s territory, or sacred land. Totems are a symbol of a people’s pride. What better symbol than a totem to honor the people of a community rich in diversity and inclusion? By drawing from totem design elements from many different cultures, as well as referencing the past, present, and future in my sculptural design, I created this universal, community symbol of pride.
The sculpture draws elements from different cultures as well as different time periods, from ancestral cultures to the modern, 21st-Century era. It also mutates from different viewpoints in expression. From front or back, the work has the appearance of a contemporary tower strong in geometry. Side views (especially at a distance) morph into the appearance of a traditional, tribal totem. The work is a cross-cultural, cross-time period, totem tower which demonstrates a building and an ascension (a noble presence) through diversity and harmonious addition. This totem tower rises to an elevation of approximately twenty feet from ground level to be a symbolic beacon of growth and pride. The Bronx is at a crossroads of the past, present, and rapidly-changing future. It is a place of continuing, diversity change and interchange. I believe this resolute, sculptural beacon of cultural fusion lends a strong, landmark presence of pride and recognition to this diverse, Bronx community.
As an invaluable, community component of this project, I involved many low-income, community, young adults receiving vocational, construction training from the nonprofit organization Youth Action YouthBuild of East Harlem. These young adults acted in the capacity of public art apprentices, both learning and applying many newfound skills during the sculpture construction and installation process. My goal was to inspire these young adults through the learning and application of more advanced, technical skills, through teamwork, and through the importance of community contribution and ownership.