Saturday, March 26, 2011

Public Art at Porter Square Station

Twice a week, I take public transportation from Brookline to Arlington to get to work at 13Forest. With such a long commute I have to plan my time perfectly, looking up train and bus times for the most efficient travel. While most MBTA users are worried about buses and trains running late, I've learned that I should be primarily concerned with how long it takes me to get off the T at Porter and make it to street level.

The Porter Square T stop is the deepest station in the Boston area, descending 105 feet below ground. The station contains three levels, connected by escalators and stairs. Together, the escalators reach 143 feet, and the stairs next to them contain 199 steps. The first time I discovered how far below I was I stared at the escalators in disbelief and became annoyed at how tedious the ascent would be. But over the past few weeks I have noticed the public art in the station, and now the walk up the escalator isn't so bad.

The public art featured in the station is titled Glove Cycle, by Mags Harries. The piece is an installation of bronze castings of lost gloves flowing down the escalator and scattered throughout the station. The work is part of the Arts on the Line program, created by the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority, and was commissioned for $30,000. The gloves are placed all around the station, on the escalators, in a corner pile, and even incorporated into the platform floor. Harries' statement on the piece notes that "the subway station is a daily ritual; a controlled pathway designed to move commuters as efficiently as possible. The positioning of the cast-bronze glove pieces echo the pattern and pauses of this ritual to make a sculptural narrative. The narrative begins at the subway’s token booth and ends on the train platform, a subway life cycle. The cycle brings commuters a sense of continuity as they go underground and return to the surface." The artist has also mentioned that the piece reflects abandoned gloves that get lost under winter snow and are revealed again in the spring. I believe this comment on the arrival of spring and renewal is something everyone in New England can appreciate.

I now look forward to walking through Porter and spotting the gloves. I've noticed that each time I walk through I discover a hidden glove that I had not seen the previous time. This element of surprise is something I believe is very important in art. Just like a painting that keeps drawing you in with hidden details, this sculpture and concept created by Harries continues to amaze me every week.

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