Romare Bearden In My Living Room
Three stops beyond my subway stop is Westchester Square-East Tremont Avenue where the vibrant stained glass windows are creations of Romare Bearden. The three windows form a luminous triptych, one flight above Westchester Avenue, at the station’s entrance. They depict a city scene that is every bit in motion. The colors are straight out of the Crayola box: fire engine red, lapis lazuli, indigo, emerald, golden yellow, sunset orange. And black subway cars weave throughout. The panels were constructed based on Mr. Bearden’s design as part of the MTA Subway Arts for Transit project. But he died in 1988, five years before the panels were completed and installed.
The day I visited, the placard was almost covered entirely by a priority mail label. I peeled some of it away to reveal more of Mr. Bearden’s name and the name of the panels, titled “Untitled”. The Bearden Foundation has it labeled as “City of Glass” and the MTA notes it as “City of Light”. What I love about public art is that it can be touched. I can trace the black border around every facet (within my reach) with my fingertip.
Mr. Bearden’s design was executed by Belgian architectural glassmaker, Benoît Gilsoul and fabricator, Helmut Schardt, based on a maquette and information that he had left behind. I discovered that I have unknowingly seen Mr. Gilsoul’s work before in the windows of Alice Millar Chapel at my alma mater, Northwestern University. I passed that church countless times on my way to and from my freshman dorm.
Until I can afford my very own Romare Bearden work, I can walk to or pay two bucks to see and touch these brilliant windows, whenever I want.
The Westchester Square-East Tremont Avenue elevated station is on the (6) subway line in the Bronx. If you take the train to the station, you’ll have to exit the station to see the windows at the entrance. If you walk or drive to the station, you can see the windows at the station’s landing from the sidewalk.