One Piece of Subway Art Keeps People Riding

Artist Beatrice Coron likes to give straphangers more than just a pretty picture, but food for thought.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    "All Around Town" went up in subway cars in January.

    In a town full of arts aficionados, not many works get the visceral reaction that one paper cut-out on the subway has been receiving.

     “All Around Town,” by Beatrice Coron, depicts so many interesting scenes and characters that it has kept some riders from getting off at the right stop. The piece went up in January this year in over 2,800 subway cars on the B, D, E and 6 lines as part of the MTA's Arts for Transit program.

    Isaac Bonilla, a 35-year-old Web developer, was disturbed when he saw what he thought was a “domestic violence” incident in the cut-out. Bonilla left it alone for a while, but he then started to wonder if the MTA was unintentionally promoting domestic violence through this piece and contacted NBC New York.

    “It’s just weird,” said Bonilla. “All the other silhouettes are showing dancing or kind of happy things that you would find in the city.”

    Coron said she gets e-mails all the time about “All Around Town,” because it depicts generic scenarios that are open to interpretation. She said she did not have domestic violence in mind when she carved out the scene that bothered Bonilla.

     “You have images, but you have to interpret them to what they can be,” said Coron. "I have other images that can be violent, but they can be other things, too.”

    Coron said she wanted to capture the good and bad of the city with “All Around Town.”

    “It gives the vibe or the mythology of New York City,” Coron said.

    The French artist added that that particular window, located on the top, center left of the cut-out, “can perceived as violent,” but can also be the scene of play or a movie. She did not distinguish the race, gender or age of the figures in the piece on purpose. 

    “It’s like having X-ray vision, you can see everybody and what everybody is doing,” said Coron. Arts for Transit officials declined to comment on the artwork or the selection process.

    Many straphangers have complained about other images in "All Around Town" as well, and yet others have praised it. One animal rights’ activist contacted Coron and accused her of promoting animal cruelty with a circus scene in the piece.

     “People make the story,” she said.

    Coron shared many of the reactions she has gotten via e-mail, and here is one.

    "This morning, I rode the subway an extra stop so I could keep looking at your poster," wrote one stranghanger. "I usually dislike the subway art, but your poster changed my mind. I love the rooftop swimming pool/resort and the kid sliding down the dinosaur skeleton, especially. Also, I think I spotted a stabbing (rear window?), some love-making, and a stork delivering babies. It's really terrific."

     The only part that MTA officials censored when she submitted the piece was the figures running atop subway cars, which she had to change to birds flying above. A poster version of "All Around Town" sells for $24.95 on the MTA's Arts for Transit Web site.

     “When you’re in the subway, you want to dream and kind of escape from the place,” said the artist, who likes having her work on display in train cars because it’s a captive audience.

    In addition to "All Around Town," Coron has glasswork titled “Bronx Literature" on view at the Burke Avenue subway stop, and a window display at the Hugo Boss store in the Meat-packing District. Starting July 7, she’ll be part of the “Poems & Pictures: A Renaissance in the Art of the Book” exhibition at the Center for Book Arts off West 27th Street.

    Coron said she likes adding a poetic touch to such a mundane experience – commuting underground – and giving people something to think about. 

    “It’s an interesting power," Coron said. "It’s a door for imagination.”