Beach 98 Street
Be Good or Be Gone, 2011
At the Beach 98th Street station, faceted glass artwork panels feature scenes, symbols, and the sea that surrounds the community. There are three groupings of five panels and two sets of diptychs. Artist Duke Riley has long been interested in maritime history, folklore, and local customs - particularly around New York's waterways. His work features the iconic view of the houses on stilts seen from the A train as it crosses Broad Channel. Situated on a pier, the homes are the only remaining bungalow housing pier of its kind in the City. Riley frames them with two bowline knots (a very strong knot commonly used to tie down the bow of a ship) to represent the strength and closeness within this community. Another set of five panels depicts a tugboat pulling a barge laden with recyclable glass. The tugboat was a based on a retired NYC tugboat that was docked near the artist's childhood home, and the depiction of glass in a glass artwork adds a layer of interest.
Riley uses nautical flags to spell out local phrases, like the "Be Good or Be Gone" sign seen in local taverns and for which the series of panels is titled and uses the phrase as a reminder for visitors to take care and appreciate the fragile environment of the area. One two-panel section shows two images of a piping plover - an endangered bird that has chosen a section of beach at the Rockaways, just a few blocks south of the station, as one of its few remaining nesting grounds. The other diptych has nautical flags above images of seaside bungalows that also bear a common Rockaway phrase, "No Sniveling,'' which simply means no whining. In the past 150 years, Rockaway Beach endured destruction from storms and fire and - as is often is the case with waterfront communities - the unwavering determination to rebuild has shaped the resilient culture of the community.On the southbound platform, a five panel set shows the rolling sea filled with cast off and floating objects and even houses, as the artist comments on both the power of the sea and the need to respect it. The faceted glass artwork fabricated by Willet Hauser Architectural Glass employs special treatments, including metal rivets to mimic ship construction, hand painting, and etching. Glass crystals form stars above the stilt houses and other innovative uses of the medium are seen throughout the works.
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