New station poster series feature San Francisco artist
BART riders are noticing evocative new art posters popping up throughout the stations. The illustrations are the latest in BART’s transit poster program. This series of three images, entitled “The Wanderer,” is the work of artist Monico Chavez. We caught up with Monico at a restaurant not too far from his Mission District home.
Q: “The title of the transit poster program is ‘Welcome Aboard the Bay Area.’ Tell us what that means to you.”
A: “I feel like the journey on BART is magical. Before I moved to the Bay Area I had never ridden public transportation. I grew up in rural southern Oregon. You had to drive 30 minutes just to get to the nearest town. So when I came here and started riding public transportation, BART seemed like a magical thing. You don’t need a car, you just have a Clipper card and you can go all the way out into the forest practically from downtown. That’s the kind of wonder I wanted to capture.”
Q: “Was there any particular experience you had on BART that inspired you?”
A: “When I first met with the BART Team, they said you should probably ride the system. So, my girlfriend and I rode the system from one end to the other, stopping at all the stations, taking photos. That’s really where I got the idea for the journey of a train from an outer station into the downtown. When you see those outer stations, the environment is so different. You get to the urban environment and have a totally different feeling. I wanted to have that transition of day to night. I think that’s how people experience on BART. You go to work in the morning. You take BART back home and it’s dusk.”
Q: “Tell us how you see the train in this series of images, ‘the Wanderer?’”
A: “The other artists before have made the public the main characters. I wanted to focus on the train as the main character. The world presented in the poster is as the train sees it. I wanted to harken back to 50s advertising art and the work of [Miroslav] Sasek, the artist who did the “This is San Francisco” children’s book. Almost a throw back poster to what BART would have had in the 50s if it was around back then. “
Q: “Is there something about these BART rides in your posters that reflects the diversity of the Bay Area versus where you grew up in Southern Oregon?”
A: “That’s part of what I focused on in the art style itself. Something everyone could enjoy. A small child riding BART or someone who’s just going to work. You can enjoy it under any circumstance. Something that is welcoming and positive.”
Q: “Hundreds of thousands of people use BART every day. What do you hope to convey to those people?”
A: “In the posters I’m trying to reflect my view of BART. My experience, how I view it, my aesthetic. I’m trying to get people to look at the posters and reflect. This is a magical experience, taking it from one end of the Bay Area to the other. You’re at your suburban house and 30 minutes later you’re in an urban center. You forget about how strange that could seem to someone 100 years ago. I’m trying to reflect that magical nature of the trip.”
Q: “How is exhibiting your work in BART stations different from other venues such as a gallery or magazine cover?”
A: “I experimented with some different styles. I wanted to make something that was open, positive, and felt unique in the stations. I saw earlier posters from this program in the stations before I even knew what they were and they caught my eye. They feel kind of like advertisements but they also don’t feel like advertisements. You look at them long enough and you see something else in there. I thought, ‘these are really cool, really interesting.’ I wanted to continue that tradition of something that feels like it has a place in the station but also feels like an individual produced it.
It’s different from a gallery show. A gallery show - it’s all about me whereas these reflect me but everyone can enjoy it. The most exciting thing about it is that I have had stuff in movies and t.v. shows but no one knew it was my work. This is different because everyone in the Bay Area is going to see something that I put a lot of my own ideas and my style into it. This is the first time I’m going to have something that is truly my own voice.”
Q: “Anything else?”
“I would love to hear what people say. I would love to hear the comments of random people who live in the Bay Area who just have a connection with art and how they react. They should post it on social media and I will find it.”
The “Welcome Aboard the Bay Area” transit poster program is designed to provide riders with an opportunity to enjoy original artwork while traveling through the BART system.