Perhaps one day we will be able to step into a box and be whisked away to another location in seconds. Travel is speeding up by the evolving new technology, but we still find ourselves stuffed into crowded trains, buses and plains. Public transportation is a public space where people rarely interact with each other, and behave in a predetermined unspoken manner. My work deals with the culture of the commuters, and what it is to be placed into a controlled environment like the subway train. The enclosed feeling of being underground with strangers is part of the experience living in a modern city of the 21st century. Transportation has changed in the last century from luxury leisure, to a dire necessity to travel long distances daily. My work captures the current human condition of an urban environment because it highlights those moments of isolation and discomfort while riding in public. In 2004 I started a project drawing strangers on trains, planes and buses to capture their pose and expression. These portraits are not commissioned works and they highlight one individual regardless of their age, race or style. This can be related to Anthony Appiah’s idea of the cosmopolitan. To live in a city is to be exposed to many different cultures in public places like the subway. How people behave in such environments affects the relationships between existing cultures in the city. My work highlights the behavior as well as the specific individuals partaking in the activity of travel.
As we have discussed culture is made and being made, my drawings embody that idea because they are drawn from life. The collection of drawings shows real people who live in New York, with attention to the details of their apparel and expression. My experience of the space is also an element present in the drawing because it is done on site. The jerky motion of the train produces lines that are unique to the experience and can be seen in this drawing. The drawings should be shown in a museum because they are not commissioned portraits of the privileged or noble individuals, but the real citizens of this city. They should have the opportunity to see themselves and reflect on their own experience. We experience culture and construct culture, so it is important to reflect on the current condition of living in 21st century city. Drawing from life may seem like an outdated form of documentation because of the development of photography and video, but I believe that it creates a better human relationship to the environment around us without the use of technology.