Rockaway Subway Art Installations Continue
At Beach 44 station, MTA Arts for Transit’s commissioned artist Jill Parisi used the scale allowed by walls of glass block to create imaginary sea creatures. In resplendent colors and intricate patterns they appear to float on the glass. These hybrid species are inspired by an unusual marine anomaly nearby, where the Gulf Stream carries various tropical fish to the region. These can be seen when scuba diving at Beach 9 Street. Parisi referenced botanical cross-sections, jellyfish, stingrays, and triggerfish, in order to create the original works on paper that were later translated into the glass medium. These over-scaled and overlapping shapes and the play of sunlight on the glass create the sensation that you are looking underwater.
The subject matter is appropriate for a station that is situated in front of the ocean, in an area slated for a possible future marine preserve. The strong sunlight that reaches the southbound mezzanine, where the first phase of the art blocks was installed, fills the station as light is refracted through the glass blocks, causing the entire wall to glow. In the evening the wall is illuminated from within, providing an outdoor view of the artwork.
Parisi titled the work after a passage from William Carlos Williams’ prose poem, Spring and All. The poem contains many playful singsong lines including ‘coom barroom,’ which mimics the sound of crashing waves.
The station design called for glass block as a durable building material that allows light to pass through it. It was decided to use these materials for artwork and a process was developed involving painting and printing on half blocks, which were then laminated to a blank half, sealing the artwork inside the block.
Parisi works mostly in handmade paper, using drawing and printmaking to create large-scale installations and small sculptures. Many of her prints and drawings are delicate hand painted works inspired by organic forms. She found working in the glass medium and a large scale to be an invigorating experience.
“I am very interested in creating a feeling of lightness and beauty for the viewer. I have also wanted to work in a more permanent medium for some time, and as a result of this project I have realized that glass is very fitting for my work. It interacts beautifully with architecture and nature. As light changes due to atmospheric conditions, time of day, and season, it adds another dimension to the piece,” Parisi said.
“The glass medium is highly interactive in that it allows for color and light to flood the environment encompassing or adjacent to the artwork and cascade over the viewers passing through it. My design was planned in order to add rich color and beauty to the station and something joyful for the commuters who pass by each day, many of whom have a long journey because of the remote location of Rockaway. If the work brings a moment of happiness to some travelers, then this project will have accomplished something important to me.”