2. Mosaics by Kiki Smith
Kiki Smith is another famous artist featured in the new eastside corridor. Smith’s art in Grand Central Madison appears in various locations. Titled River Light, The Water’s Way, The Presence, The Spring, and The Sound (2022), Smith’s artwork brings a little bit of the outdoors into the underground terminal space. Like much of her work since the 1980s, these mosaics, which appear throughout two levels of the corridor, draw inspiration from a number of sources “spanning scientific anatomical renderings from the eighteenth century to the abject imagery of relics, memento mori, folklore, mythology, Byzantine iconography, and medieval altarpieces.”
River Light is the first piece that greets you as you enter Madison Concourse from the historic Grand Central Terminal. This specific piece was “inspired by the way sunlight glints on the surface of the East River, the threshold between Manhattan and Long Island.” The mosaic pays homage to the nearby celestial painting on Grand Central’s ceiling, by incorporating celestial bodies. The look of a cyanotype artwork is mimicked by custom-made patterned glass pieces in shades of blue tones and white arranged in a way to provide a sense of movement as visitors pass by.
On the Mezzanine level of Grand Central Madison, four more mosaics by Smith bring flora and fauna into the subterranean space and continue the conceptual conversation with Grand Central Terminal and Long Island. These mosaics are glass tile renderings of photographs Smith took of the local landscape and animal life on Long Island. The mosaics are framed in four arched node walls. Natural stones are incorporated into the artwork at 45th Street, The Water’s Way, which is based on a collage by the artist. At 46th Street, a lone deer stands among gold foil reeds and under a spattering of Smith’s iconic blue stars – Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, and the North Star – in The Presence. In The Spring at 47th Street, the native wild turkeys of Long Island (there are 6,000!) are pictured in a lush forest. Finally, The Sound at 48th Street, the northernmost and longest mosaic, shows a portal to Long Island’s famous waterway.
“I made images from nature that hold affection and personal significance to me as I hope they will for others,” states artist Kiki Smith. “I am very honored to be included in the tradition of artists making work for the MTA, particularly as I have rarely had the opportunity to make something that lives within the public realm. I tried to bring pleasure to people that may feel hectic as they move to-and-fro and to give them an image to locate themselves in the station and to carry with them home.” In total, Smith’s mosaics cover 1,400 square feet and were fabricated by Mayer of Munich, a partner of Smith’s for 25 years.