The colors and shapes that appear in artist Glendalys Medina’s new mosaic subway art are pulled from the surrounding Brooklyn neighborhoods. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Medina would walk around Williamsburg and Bushwick, making observations and cultivating gratitude for the people and places that she encountered. What came of those walks is Gratitudes off Grand, a colorful installation that covers a total of nearly 340 square feet inside the Grand Street (L) subway station.
In her work, Medina is constantly inspired by Taíno and Latinx culture, Hip-hop, and “humans’ capacity to create sense out of the world.” The forms that appear in this mosaic were inspired by the way our brains create patterns out of the information they receive. In this case, Medina’s mind took in the sights and sounds of Brooklyn while she ventured out in each cardinal direction to explore the blocks that surround the Grand Street station.
The installation is made of two panels of glass mosaic tiles fabricated and installed by Miotto Mosaic Art Studios. A 40-foot wide panel appears on the Brooklyn bound platform while the other panel appears on the opposite platform mezzanine. Both feature clusters of geometric interlocking forms that are reminiscent of map details, schematic design drawings, and the geometric shapes that appear on the historic subway tiles located just above Medina’s own.
On the Brooklyn-bound side, the colors that appear in the work come from the national flags of the residents of East Williamsburg and Bushwick. This includes the area’s very first inhabitants, the Lenape, as well as Pan-African, Irish, Italian, Puerto Rican, and Dominican Republic immigrants who came later. On the Manhattan-bound platform, the visuals represent changes in the neighborhoods as the seasons change. Elements that Medina drew from for this side include a nearby church, birds in the springtime, the Moore Street Market, or the collar of a passing dog.
“This artwork is an act of gratitude to those who built and transformed this neighborhood throughout history,” Medina said in a press release from MTA Arts & Design, “It has been an honor to create something lasting that I hope will resonate with those to come.”
Medina’s artwork is one piece of a larger renovation project going on at the station. ADA accessibility upgrades, including new elevators, and other improvements to the station are expected to be completed this month.
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