Friday, September 19, 2014

Subway Series

No, not Yankees and Mets but a series of maps and a story. In my days as a graphic designer, I worked on maps. Specifically the New York City Transit Maps when I worked for Michael Hertz Associates. I did Manhattan, Staten Island and Queens bus maps, guide-a-rides at the bus stops, Express busses, and was a junior designer on the New York City Subway map, working with the always interesting Nobu Sirasi. The impetus for this blog is that The Museum of Modern Art recently sent a notice celebrating their new gift shop products designed by Massimo Vignelli and they included his Subway map on the page. Seeing it lauded gets my dander up. I really dislike this map. In the interest of design, I agree it is good looking but in the interest of the user, it is incorrect! It can get you lost in a New York Minute.

Vignelli's map has subway lines that run only in straight lines with 90° or 45° turns. This causes geographic errors —on  the West Side of Manhattan, Broadway is seemingly misplaced. It shows as west of Amsterdam Avenue when it should be east. It drifts toward West End Avenue near 72nd Street, where it should intersect with Amsterdam. It passes West End Avenue north of it's endpoint creating several blocks of fictitious Upper West Side real estate, the Broadway line crosses the Eighth Avenue line not at 42nd Street, but at Columbus Circle, Bowling Green is not actually above Rector Street,  and these  are only a few of the map's geographic errors. According to the New York Times, Vignelli said, “Of course I know Central Park is rectangular and not square, Of course I know the park is green, and not gray. Who cares? You want to go from Point A to Point B, period. The only thing you are interested in is the spaghetti.” ...“On purpose we rejected any visual reference to nature or landmarks." Vignelli further defended his design by pointing out that diagrammatic representation is common practice.”

I worked on the map after his. It is not so pretty but it does a great job.  In fact, a version of it is in use today. A lot of work went into the planning. Helped by
Dr. Arlene L. Bronzaft, an Associate Professor of Psychology at Lehman College and Dr. Stephen B. Dobrow, the editor of transportation newsletter Notes from the Underground and an Associate Professor teaching urban systems at Fairleigh Dickinson University, a committee focused on the relationship between transportation within a city and an understanding of the city’s geography, and they asked actual New Yorkers. Michael Hertz, my former boss, was contracted by the MTA to execute the new  ideas. The new map featured subway lines that bend and turn along with New York City —a hybrid of the graphic and the geographic.. This is important because I think we have the most complicated system in the world —a result of being first and of the conglomeration of competing transit companies/lines.  MoMA may not think it's good design, but our map is an early successful exercise in user interface —the mantra of the modern world and it works!

But since this an "art" blog,  here is some for you, created on the Subway. You have to work fast or take the local to Coney Island. Artwork by Josh Bayer, Kurt Hoss, and Tony Serio.

By Josh Bayer

By Kurt Hoss

By Tony Serio

Friday, September 12, 2014

Working at Dieu Donné Papermill — a Look at my Process.

Yesterday I was making large sheets of paper using cotton base sheets, stencils with charcoal dust, pulp drawing, embedding photographs and laying on sheets of abaca at Dieu Donné paper mill. Working this large requires requires collaboration. I spent the day working with Amy Jacobs, Studio Collaborator extrodinaire  and Danae Lagoy, my fantastic studio assistant. 

The focus of Dieu Donné’s studio mission is to work with artists. Dieu Donné is a non-profit organization dedicated to the creation, promotion, and preservation of new contemporary art utilizing the hand paper making process. The organization’s primary services and programs are devoted to working with mid-career and emerging artists to develop new, innovative methods of paper making within the medium and the greater world of contemporary art.  

Dieu Donné offers unique opportunities to produce individual works and editions through collaborative artists’ projects. Artistic staff consult with artists to develop innovative methods.
It certainly works for me!

Family photo

Artist Susan Shaw at work.
Painting with linen pulp

Danae Lagoy

Amy Jacobs

Photography by Charles Chessler.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


I think all of us procrastinate at some point in our studio practice. I have been reading a book about how writers and artists get themselves working, titled Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. It was a gift from another artist friend, Linda Tharp. I usually procrastinate by cleaning my studio. Below is a wonderful video by Tom Sachs, that addresses that part of my studio practice.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Andy Again..Andy Warhol

The other day I was reminded of Andy's photograph, "Two Cakes and a Gun." I walked into my own kitchen and saw my cake and evidently my gun. The fact that mine is plastic makes it Andy Warhol redux.

Well, it's not cake but it's certainly eating.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


In Alaska and Canada, I looked at a lot of First Nation totem poles. Each is beautiful and unique. I also saw the work of the great, Bill Reid, a comtemporary carver. The color photograph is of is of his sculpture, Raven and The First Men at the UBC Museum of Anthropology. It depicts part of a Haida creation myth. The Raven represents the Trickster figure common to many mythologies. The totem poles also led me to think about the treatment of First Nation Peoples, and led me to support this project on Kickstarter, the Survivors Totem Pole. They need less than $907.00 to finish the pole and make a base for it. The master carver is Skundaal (Bernie Williams), from the Haida and Coast Salish Nations. She is the only female apprentice of the late master Haida carver, Bill Reid. I am glad the tradition of totem poles is still alive.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Belated Fourth of July

I had a wonderful Fourth of July. The police directed and redirected us so that a normal fifteen minute trip took an hour and a half. It was raining. We missed the parade and saw only the last three floats. Being the eternal optimist, I went out looking for photographic opportunity. Perhaps channeling Robert Frank's The Americans, a book indelibly burned into my brain, I took these photos.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Managing Disaster

A few years ago I bought a little model of the Unabomber's cabin from a series that contained buildings like the Texas Book Depository and Ford's Theater.  They were made by Constantin and Laurene Leon Boym.  I bought it because it was a difficult time in my life and I wanted to be able hold disaster in the palm of my hand. I thought it would make things more manageable. 

Imagine my surprise when I walked into the Museum of Art and Design to see NYC Makers, the MAD Biennial saw some of the little buildings on display. Including an alternate series: Eighteen Buildings (from the Missing Monuments Series) I guess the moral of the story is that art conquers all. Ars Vincit omnia!

Photo of he Missing Monuments Series by Eva Heyd.