Roaming Underfoot

Submitted by Nancy Blum

85+

Client: MTA Arts & Design, New York City, NY

Location: New York, NY, United States

Completion date: 2019

Project Team

Artist

Nancy Blum

MTA Arts & Design

Lydia Bradshaw, Project Manager

MTA Arts & Design

Sandra Bloodworth, Director

Fabricator

Stephen Miotto

Miotto Mosaic Art Studio

Fabricator

Fabrizio Travisannuto

Artistic Mosaics by Travisannuto

Other

Obelisk3D / Graphic Design

Photography

Cathy Carver

Overview

“Roaming Underfoot” is installed in the MTA 28th Street subway in Manhattan on the uptown and downtown 6 train platforms. Blum’s 6 distinct Italian glass mosaics totaling 80 feet long by 9 feet high (approximately 650 square feet) were part of an initiative to renovate the historic station that was originally opened in 1904. The eastside train in the heart of the city is flanked by multiple architectural gems and is just blocks from the Madison Square Park Conservancy. Taking inspiration from the garden, Blum’s design depicts seven flowering plants that form the foundation of the perennial collection, all chosen for their ability to meet the changing climate conditions of the city. Along the platforms passengers find large, colorful depictions of red buds, magnolias, hellebores, witch hazel, daffodils, hydrangea and camellia.

Goals

Blum wanted to breathe life into the underground station by integrating local flowers known for their beauty and adaptive qualities into the historical station. These botanical images are designed to bring the magic of the park itself, regarded as an urban sanctuary, to the riders once they descend the subway. Blum has always been fundamentally concerned with environmentalism and her thriving ecosystem is meant to remind us of how beneficial riding the subway actually is for our natural world. Harmony also guided the decision to take sections of the platform walls that were lined with original glass subway tile from 1920 and enhance them with new gold banding, heightening the already existing architecture and marrying it to her gold flecked mosaics. Collaborating with the finest Italian mosaicists, this aspirational ecosystem was brought to life.

Process

Of prime importance was getting the final artwork to reflect the quality of Blum’s botanical drawings and ensure that her color choices would translate accurately into small tile. To guarantee this Blum brought on board the deeply experienced mosaic expert Stephen Miotto of Miotto Art Mosaics whom she had collaborated with previously. After drawing the artwork at 2/3rds scale, the drawings were sent to Travisanutto Giovanni Artistic Mosaics in Spilembergo, Italy where they were hand crafted by 15 mosaic artisans. Prior to their work beginning, Blum travelled to Italy to approve the final decisions. Once shipped back to the US as ‘puzzle parts’ the mosaics were installed by Stephen Miotto and team.

Additional Information

Nancy Blum is best known for her botanical drawings, while having worked in many sculptural mediums over the years. She has designed a number of public artworks, including a suite of art glass windows for San Francisco General Hospital’s new acute care unit, and steel meshworks depicting migratory birds for Minneapolis’ light rail transit. Blum’s work is held in dozens of private and public collections. Among her recent projects is a permanent installation at the residence of the U.S. Ambassador to Belgium in Brussels. Her accomplishments have also been recognized through fellowships from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, Peter S. Reed Foundation, Artist Trust and Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation.