The concept for this proposal evolved from my own experience riding the subway line last year when I had to travel with my infant. I would board the train at rush hour with her sleeping snugly positioned in my body. Then, I noticed the harried and tired riders looking at her. The most hardened expressions would soften or smile. People who normally would never speak to me suddenly did. Working mothers felt inspired to describe their children. Fathers would try to guess if she was a boy or a girl, Single people would marvel at her tiny perfection, while old people would play peek-a-boo. It was surprising.
In short, I was struck by the positive humanizing effect a small infant had on those diverse subway riders and was moved by their intimacies. I am interested in exploring the power of baby imagery for the subway system.
In my proposal I have designed a series of baby faces, each set in their own individual space and color field. Taken from ethnically diverse images of babies from the newly burgeoning 23rd Street neighborhood, these painted depictions will be turned into strong graphic mosaics.
These baby faces are on average large, the face itself ranging in size from 2 feet to 3 feet. The framing of these faces is done in a way that is playful in some cases, serious in others, but is always moving around the boundaries of the frame. The expressions too are ever changing; happy, sad, thoughtful, or playful. These babies are strong individuals, yet they are not simply portraits. By using visual conventions like framing, movement, and size, the faces become icons. Icons expressing the vast range of our state of being and tapping into the potential our babyhood once held.
These faces offer this potential again, perhaps as a possibility in our own adulthood, or perhaps as a reminder of who we wished to be.
The colors are bold and strong: grownup colors that in some cases reflect the colors of the historic mosaic banding or station identification plaques; clear graphic colors that will stand out against the visual confusion of the tracks, the people, and the signs; colors that will make the faces readable from across the platform. Each face will have its own color range, signifying the multi-colored ethnic neighborhood.
At the work’s most successful, I’d like the all the riders to connect with the rich mine of their primal selves that they must not forget in their frenzied existence in the here and now. That playful, sometimes joyous, sometimes frightening - always changing life-force. This is what I believe lay in the underbelly of the subway riders desire to communicate with me and my infant those days on the subway.
It will be uplifting to be reminded of our common origins in bright colors in a dark place where diversity and life speed by.