"The Commuter's Lament" by Norman B. Colp
Times Square Subway, NYC
Since 1991, this passageway has contained a piece of public art inspired by the Burma-Shave ads, which consist of a series of signs attached to the roof of the passageway, with the last panel being a picture of a bed. The panels were part of an art project that were supposed to last only one year, but were never removed. The lines actually appear mounted on the overhead I-beams, approximately every fifth beam.
Norman B. Colp, an artist who lived on the Upper West Side, said his work, titled ''Commuter's Lament'' or ''A Close Shave,'' was inspired by the seemingly endless highways of the West he encountered while driving with his girlfriend in the 60's. Certainly, the five-block passageway seems no shorter to weary commuters.
''I wanted to address the working public,'' said Mr. Colp, who was commissioned to make the signs, with six-inch high letters, by Arts in Transit, a program that hires artists to do paintings and sculptures for subway and train stations throughout the city. He was paid $5,000.
The director of Arts in Transit, Sandra Bloodworth, said the 65 works commissioned by the program were, like subway musicians, intended to uplift the chore of commuting. ''Ninety-nine percent just think it's great,'' she said of Mr. Colp's installation. ''Their reaction is anything from little smile to great big smile. But every once in a while, somebody's having too bad a day to find it humorous.''
Such seemed to be the case during morning and evening rush hours and at midday. As lines of commuters marched under the signs, all stared straight ahead, walking as fast as possible. No one looked up.
The artist wrote about the installation in November, 2006: “The work is incomplete, for the last panel (a 24"x36" B/W image of a slept-in bed) was removed for the station renovation last year. I do not have any info from Arts for Transit when it will be reinstalled. Also missing are wall labels at the beginning and end of the sequence which identifies the work as THE COMMUTER'S LAMENT or A CLOSE SHAVE. The second part of the title also refers to Burma Shave, a men's product (1930's to 60's approx) which was well known for series of signs, like my homage.”
Mr. Colp passed away August 28, 2007.
The signs read:
Why the pain?
Just go home
Do it again.