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.
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.
Categories: Metro Art