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MTA Arts & Design


Avenue J

Rita MacDonald

Bird Laid Bare, 2011

Glass mosaic and tile

Artist Rita MacDonald works with everyday patterns in much of her work, manipulating and enlarging the shapes to fit architectural spaces in her installations and painstakingly rendering each line in her prints. Often her patterns are based upon fabrics from old clothes or well-worn curtains. In her two-station project on the Brighton Line, she puts these practices to good use, creating a trompe l'oiel effect in which the tile wall is folded back like a curtain to reveal a vintage wallpaper-like pattern behind. The fabricator, Miotto Mosaics, faced a challenging technical puzzle of trimming rectangular tiles to resemble an unfurling form so that it seem as though an invisible hand has peeled back a layer of the wall.

MacDonald wanted to create the effect of a remodeling in progress, honoring the station rehabilitation process, and created an updated craftsman-era pattern that references the historic homes in the Midwood community. In her words, "The revealed pattern is a decidedly more pastoral pattern - inspired in color, form, and design both by the residential nature of the neighboring streets and by pattern design from the beginning of the twentieth century, the time at which the station was originally built. I'm interested in the intersection of these two patterns as a metaphor for the idea that architecture and space can be holders of our collective memory."

Avenues J and M share this metaphoric motif. Avenue M features a rabbit design with rabbits leaping from the wall and hopping along the station stairs. Avenue J depicts birds who fan out from the pattered wall and seem to fly throughout the station. The creatures appear to have escaped from the old- fashioned wall pattern of the past to join us here in the present day station. The birds and rabbits add a sense of whimsy while at the same time engaging people who use their own forms of transportation. In an inspired flight of fancy, the animals travel to the neighboring stations: a bird is seen mixing it up with the rabbits at Avenue M and at Avenue J, a rabbit hops over to visit with the birds.

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