Mosaics reflecting intimacy of NYC public life installed at Williamsburg subway station

June 17, 2024

Personal Choice #5 (2023) © Chloë Bass, NYCT Lorimer St Station. Commissioned by MTA Arts & Design. Photo: Nicholas Knight.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority unveiled two new mosaics in a Williamsburg subway station that reflect on the human connections of language and touch experienced throughout New York City’s diverse communities. Fabricated by Miotto Mosaic Art Studios, Jackie Chang’s “Signs of Life” and Chloë Bass’ “Personal Choice #5” were installed throughout the Metropolitan Avenue/ Lorimer Street station in conjunction with new accessibility upgrades, including new stairs and elevators.

Signs of Life (2000/2024) © Jackie Chang, NYCT Metropolitan Av. Commissioned by MTA Arts & Design. Photo: Nicholas Knight.

“We are thrilled to have artwork by Jackie Chang and Chloë Bass in dialogue at this station complex,” Sandra Bloodworth, Director at MTA Arts & Design, said. “Their thought-provoking compositions pair text and imagery in a way that feels kindred, yet true to each artist’s style. These poetic representations speak directly to human connection, through language and touch.”

Chang’s “Signs of Life” draws inspiration from traditional Chinese writing, where the meaning of a character can often be determined by its physical resemblance to an object or sign. By combining text and image, Chang aims to motivate viewers to reflect on the human experience.

Signs of Life (2000/2024) © Jackie Chang, NYCT Metropolitan Av. Commissioned by MTA Arts & Design. Photo: Nicholas Knight.

For this project, Chang created two new pieces to accompany her existing artwork at the station. The new artwork compares seemingly unrelated works in a marble cutout and graphic symbols in a glass mosaic. One of the panels reads, “TRUTH” and “TRUST,” accompanied by an image of an iceberg.

The other reads “ones” and “once,” featuring the image of Armillaria fungi, one of the world’s largest and oldest living organisms. Both pieces create a thoughtful connection between graphic symbol; and text, and reflect Chang’s mantra that a “single word is a picture worth a thousand words,” according to a press release.

Signs of Life (2000/2024) © Jackie Chang, NYCT Metropolitan Av. Commissioned by MTA Arts & Design. Photo: Nicholas Knight.

Additionally, two of Chang’s earlier works featuring waves and the words “MANKIND” and “ITSELF” were refabricated and relocated to the G line mezzanine at the Metropolitan Avenue/Lorimer Street station. This relocation allows commuters to fully experience “Signs of Life” as they walk through the station.

“The concept for Signs of Life is centered on offering riders ‘food for thought’ as they travel
through the station,” Chang said. “The new works to the collection reflect the same spirit, inviting subway users to find its meaning by drawing from their personal life experiences and understanding. The riders will find new personal meaning with each repeated encounter of the work as they journey through the station and through life.”

Personal Choice #5 (2023) © Chloë Bass, NYCT Lorimer St Station. Commissioned by MTA Arts & Design. Photo: Nicholas Knight.

“Personal Choice #5,” Bass’ new work, is located in the newly upgraded control area at Lorimer Street on the L line, inviting onlookers to think about their shared experiences, connections, and proximity to others that make NYC so special. The piece is part of an ongoing series called “Personal Things,” a text and image-based project that matches cropped images from the New York Public Library’s Picture Collection with poetry penned by Bass.

Personal Choice #5 (2023) © Chloë Bass, NYCT Lorimer St Station. Commissioned by MTA Arts & Design. Photo: Nicholas Knight.

The new piece depicts three groups of individuals in parts of Williamsburg near the subway station. Starting on the Brooklyn-bound side with an illustration of two Orthodox Jewish community members from an image captured in the 1960s, the triptych then continues along the wall of the central mezzanine with a 1997 image of a diverse group of teenagers and finishes on the Manhattan-bound side with a photo depiction from 2005 of two men in conversation.

Text reading, “Whenever I’m pulled under by the weight of all I miss, I take some consolation that I have known, and may yet know, another life” is stretched out across the three mosaic panels, allowing the viewer to read it like an open book.

Personal Choice #5 (2023) © Chloë Bass, NYCT Lorimer St Station. Commissioned by MTA Arts & Design. Photo: Nicholas Knight.

“Personal Choice #5” reflects the natural intimacy and anonymity of public life, serving as an “outward reminder of a collective sense of hope and new beginnings.” The artwork connects the concepts of place and human interaction with messages of remembrance that illustrate the evolution and change of NYC’s neighborhoods and their inhabitants.

“The use of tender, gestural images points to the inherent intimacy of public life in a city where we live alongside more than 8 million other people, many of whom are different from us,” Bass said. “The depiction of non-white (or otherwise minority) people is a reminder of who we must remember to consider and call our neighbors.”

There is an abundance of world-class public art currently on view throughout the city’s subway system. Earlier this month, the MTA revealed “Making It Here: New York and the Whitney Biennial,” a showcase of work by artists who have been, or are currently featured, in the Whitney Biennial. The art is displayed on vacant newsstands and former retail spaces at three subway stations: West 4th Street in Manhattan, Jay Street-MetroTech in Brooklyn, and Fordham Road in the Bronx.

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All photos courtesy of Nicholas Knight.

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