Commuting in the city can be so routine that sometimes we forget that our transit environments are ever-changing. In Chicago, it’s worth a moment during your busy journey to take a gander at the public works projects that have been appearing around the city. It’s hard to miss then the newest addition to the Logan Square neighborhood; just look up next time you’re passing through the Blue Line’s California El stop to see Patrick McGee’s “Harmony of the World” mosaic installation.
In early 2014, the city of Chicago commissioned artist Patrick McGee to create a piece of work for the California stop’s vestibule. McGee is a Chicago based painter, sculptor, and installation artist whose portfolio includes the Evanston Fire Station #3 (2004), Millennium Park’s Exelon Pavilion (2005), and the Richard M. Daley Branch of the Chicago Public Library.
Being that the California Blue Line stop was built in 1895, a prominent concern with tackling this project was to keep the integrity of the building’s historic details intact. The ceiling of the station however is not a part of the landmark status and therefore presented the perfect canvas for McGee’s White Lotus.
Ironically enough, this very tactile project began on McGee’s computer where the final image (which was inspired by the water lilies in the nearby Humboldt Park) was drawn tile by tile in a drafting software. The 70,000 resin film tiles were custom made in Italy and then applied to the station’s ceiling using traditional tiling techniques. Patrick noted that this application process took ten days (October 16-26th, 2015) and he met a lot of individuals who were excited for the new art at their everyday station. And to extend the interest further, Patrick used buttons to pass out to riders at the California stop with the intention of giving them the small piece of artwork so they too could represent their station and neighborhood.
McGee’s piece not only refreshes the idea of late 19th century tile mosaics but does so while keeping the sincerity of this Chicago landmark intact. With this button, riders can carry a piece of this installation on their person everywhere they go. The wearing and spreading of these buttons can bring attention to public works projects and the artists can have created them.