4. Memories of Twenty-Third Street at 23rd Street
Like Mary Miss’s interactive subway art installation at Union Square, Memories of Twenty-Third Street at the 23rd Street N/R station calls attention to the history of the station’s location. The glass mosaics on the walls of this station, a series of floating hats, were designed by artist Keith Godard in 2002. Godard, who once lived nearby at the Chelsea Hotel, wanted to pay tribute to the area’s history as a cultural district known for vaudeville and the Ladies Mile from the 1880s to the 1920s.
The different types of hats represent styles that might have been worn by New Yorkers strolling through the area in the late 19th to early 20th centuries. The apparent movement of the mosaic hats represents how they may have been blown off by the wind. The artist told the MTA, “In addition to bringing back memories of the specific time period and people and appealing to the viewers on a more common level as fascinating hats, this design can also serve as an interactive, playful, and witty landmark. As a diversion, passengers waiting for the subway train might try to picture people on the opposite platform “wearing” the hats they are standing beneath!” Goddard was inspired by the fashion of icons like Jim Brady, Oscar Wilde, Sara Bernhardt, Mark Twain, and Lillian Russell.