Monday, December 11, 2023

Photo of the Day: ‘Railrider's Throne,’ Columbia University Subway Station, NYC

Several weeks ago, before meeting a friend for lunch in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, I passed through a spot extremely familiar to me from my days as a commuting student at Columbia University.

This time, on the 116th Street downtown subway platform, I noticed a quirky sculpture. Believe me, this was the last thing I would have expected to see when Columbia was still trying to recover its equilibrium a decade after the 1968 student takeover of the university—or, even more recently (and disastrously), when city services were still reeling from New York’s narrow escape from bankruptcy in the fall of 1975.

In other words, it was a gray, dingy atmosphere, where the idea of people smiling over public art was more a matter of satire than satisfaction.

So you can imagine my surprise when I saw this artwork in steel on the platform, depicting an oversized chair. "I wanted to create a whimsical environment that allows the commuter to feel special as opposed to alienated," observed sculptor Michelle Greene.

In my case, mission accomplished, as I took out my iPhone to photograph this piece of public art.

But that wasn’t the end of my surprise. I found out from the Website for the Metropolitan Transit Authority that Railrider's Throne was created in 1991. I had passed through this station a number of time in the three decades since then, but somehow hadn’t noticed it till now.

Go figure. I can’t.

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