For 17 years, Jackie Chang has taken her art to the streets. The artist blends images and words in public spaces so people can experience art in their everyday lives. The Charlotte Area Transportation System commissioned her to design art for the JW Clay and University City Boulevard LYNX Blue Line extension projects, which are scheduled for completion in 2016. Chang is also an artist in residence at the McColl Center for Visual Art and lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Q. What is the concept for JW Clay Boulevard? I’m using the words “here” and “there.” Here will be embedded into the platform of this station and the word there will be on the glass windscreen. For me, here is where you are standing, and there is somewhere you can see on the horizon. On the platform, there will be a topographical map that will be treated as part of the cement. The words will be in zinc and as we walk on it, we polish the word “here” on the ground. There are three windscreens: one for the piedmont valley, the ocean and the mountains.
Q. How did you come up with “here” and “there”? I was inspired by my observations of the compass rose throughout Charlotte. The Queen Charlotte fountain at the airport is in the shape of a compass. JW Clay is close to UNC Charlotte, and its student union plaza has a compass rose design. These words and images are in constant flux and every time, every day that we live, the meaning of a word changes, maybe in a subtle way, but our experiences add to the meaning of the words.
Q. When did you get into public art? After I graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago, I was picked up by the Peter Miller Gallery and had a fairly successful one person show. During my second year, I created a collection of awnings and wanted to put them outside. The gallery space was too limited for the audience I wanted to reach, so I convinced six establishments on two blocks in Brooklyn to put them up on their storefronts. From that point on, I have never made work for a gallery space.
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Q. How is public art different from gallery art? I don’t like the elitism that high art has in its history. Most people are not comfortable going to galleries or museums. I really want to be able to make it accessible to people. I don’t want my work to just be decorative and a lot of public art falls into that category. My work pokes at people. For me, it needs to do that, otherwise people look at it once and never think about it again.
Q. What is your vision for the University City Boulevard platform? It will have the word here, but on the screens will be the word where. Where is not as concrete as here and there. Where is abstract, where can be imaginary, it can be in the past, it can be in the future. The city is looking into the future, but it’s also taking the past with it.