Claremont Through the Eyes of Jessica Polzin McCoy

Artist Jessica Polzin McCoy signs free copies of her poster celebrating the city of Claremont on May 31 at an event at the Claremont Public Library.

Artist Jessica Polzin McCoy signs free copies of her poster celebrating the city of Claremont on May 31 at an event at the Claremont Public Library.

Four artists have designed new posters for the Metro Through the Eyes of Artists series highlighting Metro accessible destinations. Below, one of the artists, Jessica Polzin McCoy, discusses her original artwork celebrating Claremont and what she hopes to share with transit riders who see the poster on Metro buses and trains in the coming months.

Now in its tenth year, the Through the Eyes of Artists poster series commissions local artists to create original artworks that express the uniqueness of Los Angeles County neighborhoods, as a way of encouraging people to take Metro to explore destinations served by the agency.

The four new posters will bring the series to a total of 29 neighborhoods featured. Explore Through the Eyes of Artists posters.

Claremont poster, the latest in the Metro Through the Eyes of Artists series.

Claremont poster, the latest in the Metro Through the Eyes of Artists series.

Claremont poster spotted on a Red Line train, part of the Metro Through the Eyes of Artists poster series.

Claremont poster spotted on a Gold Line train, part of the Metro Through the Eyes of Artists poster series.

You teach in Claremont–how did you choose this imagery to represent the city?

This is a city I walk though every day, but sometimes through that repetition you miss a lot, you stop observing. So it was important to me to take a fresh look and seek out characteristics that define the neighborhood visually. When I photograph a neighborhood, I take hundreds of photos, casual snapshots, and in the end I only use about thirty. It isn’t hard to find beautiful building details or colorful objects in a location, but it is hard to edit them and achieve the essence of a location. I guess I always have in the back of my mind a kind of story about a neighborhood, and I think Claremont has a Secret Garden quality to it.

What defines the experience of living and working there?

The facade of friendliness that I perceive in Claremont is generally how I feel about all of Southern California. And I may be wrong, it may not be a facade, I may have grown up skeptical in the Midwest! I love it here. I especially like working at Pitzer, arguably the most left leaning of the Claremont Colleges, it is a warm and honest community. The people there speak their mind and truly desire to make the world a more accepting and equitable place.

You employ a fairly involved process using photography, collage and painting. Can you elaborate on that?

Clearly the composition for these paintings is done in collage form. The works are a reconstruction, a composite of the space. The fragments are composed in a manner that unifies disjointed information. Your eye will make sense of the shape of a house, long before you realize it is not a single image, but many different images of varied proportion, perspective, and chronology. It is my goal as an artist to make work that reveals something private or previously unseen. I want it to be obligatory that the viewer stare into this space. Dissect it, piece by piece. The work demands that the viewer becomes a voyeur, a treasure hunter. It is amazing what you can find out about someone or someplace by looking at what surrounds them. Months later a viewer may notice an object previously unseen, and feel like a secret has been revealed.

Tell me about your artistic practice more generally (materials, themes, ideas).

I paint in both watercolor and oil, but all my public art pieces have been watercolor because it tends to be a little more immediate. I like to paint large life size figures and objects, but the works are hard to ship around and store, so I tend to paint a lot of smaller works as well. I have been composing environments like this for a long time, I like the challenge of visually trying to unite disparate pieces. Making something whole out of separates. The act of making the compositions is more complex than it seems, I like their perceived simplicity, but a lot of time is put into the varied color, scale, shape, and perspective.

How do you feel about having your work seen in the public realm of transit?

For me, artwork is about revealing a story that feels personal and intimate through realistic imagery. I want the images to feel like home, with an underlying darkness to them. I hope that people will get lost in small moments of the work, will see something that was pictured while walking and see it through a different lens. I hope visitors feel like they know a neighborhood just by looking at the work and locals revisit what’s around them with renewed appreciation.

What is your experience (or not) of taking public transit in Los Angeles County? Do you have any good stories?

I love taking the Metrolink from Claremont. I take it when I need to go downtown during the day. I have only ever had friendly and comfortable rides, and no one has ever given me a dirty look, even when I have a ton of luggage on my way to or from LAX.

Jessica Polzin McCoy in her studio. Photo: Todd Gray.

Jessica Polzin McCoy in her studio.

10 replies

  1. “Claremont poster spotted on a Red Line train, part of the Metro Through the Eyes of Artists poster series.”

    …Are we sure that’s a red line train? Since it’s, you know, daylight outside, and the Red Line is…underground? 😛

  2. i think i’ve asked this before, but never got an answer. how can you obtain prints of these posters. i take pics on my phone of every new one that i see on the trains.

  3. Thank you for your interest in Metro’s Through the Eyes of Artists poster series. Unfortunately, at this time we do not have the posters available for sale but we hope to have an online store in the future where the posters may be purchased.

    If you would like to learn more about the art program or art opportunities please join our mailing list by going to the Metro Art webpage: http://www.metro.net/about/art/, click on the tab “Artist Opportunities” in the middle of the webpage and enter your information under “Join Our Mailing List”.

    Heidi Zeller
    Metro Creative Services

  4. It is odd that Metro is spending money on Claremont posters but, has decided not to extend the Gold Line to Claremont.

    • Extending the line to Claremont is in Metro’s long-range plan but it is not yet funded. Same as many other projects that lack funds. Metro is also a major funder of Metrolink, which does serve Claremont and helps connect it to the greater L.A. County transit network.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  5. Warren sort of made my point on the lack of any Metro presence east of Cal Poly Pomona, so I’ll just point out that car 750B is one of the AnsaldoBreda P2550s and, despite Metro Creative Services-produced Expo Line propaganda indicating otherwise, is presently only in service on the present-day Gold Line.

    P.S. Warren, Metro gave the Foothill Extension Authority $758 million to extend the line from Pasadena to the east. That the Foothill Extension Authority has already spent that money and will only get as far as Azusa is not Metro’s fault.

  6. Erik, you’re right. I caught the mistake when they labeled it as a Red Line train. Now they’re claiming this is an Expo Line Car? I ride the Expo Line to work every morning! I’ve never seen the Ansaldo Breda cars on Expo Line. They are exclusive to the Gold Line. Someone at Metro Creative Services needs a good talking to!

  7. @Jose Escobar @Steve Hymon If people want prints, for now why not at least provide a high resolution JPEG for download for each of these artworks on the metro website. That way people can set it as they’re computer wallpaper or make prints or enlargements of they wish. My favorite is the Azusa on which shows the palms trees along Azusa Ave.

    • Hi Sebastian;

      Good idea. I’ll talk to the creative service folks and see if it’s feasible–there may be some other issues I’m unaware of.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source