I was given the assignment of creating an artwork, which would give NJ TRANSIT's rail passengers a visual sense of place, helping to create a memorable landmark for the 22nd Station. It was suggested that my piece feature Bayonne architecture. In my mind this came to mean that the artwork should reflect some of the architectural landmarks in the neighborhoods adjacent to the rail stop.
I made several trips to Bayonne while planning my design. I traversed the streets, shopped in the stores, ate in local restaurants and spoke with Bayonne residents. The physical closeness of the water that surrounds this "Peninsula City", though often hidden, was a constant presence, even the quality of the sunlight belied of the nearness of the water hiding beyond the quiet suburban neighborhoods. The impressive architecture of the local churches, bridges and library as well as the splendid parks, spoke of an affluent past still palpable in the present. My journey to Bayonne, a town I had once visited before in search of the only American examples of the Irish stained glass master, Harry Clarke, became for me another treasure hunt.
Looking through the collection of photos from Bayonne's past, housed at the Bayonne Library, was like finding an old family album in the attic. These silent witnesses stare out with remarkable vitality.
My design therefore is a distillation of my observations of Bayonne, not an historical reading. In addition to my own photographs, I have inscribed place names and selected historical images, which I am resurrecting from the past. As a visitor to Bayonne, these are the treasures I found; they resonate for me in the present and I hope the viewer is intrigued to explore them further. Horizontal lines etched into the glass are meant to suggest motion and to symbolize the continuum of time, as it exists on many levels. A horizontal blend of color is spread across the panels. It is the precise wedge of the spectrum encompassing the orange, magenta and blue of NJ TRANSIT's logo, blurred by speed and staggered by the staccato rhythm of the train. A thin "thread" of color shifting dichroic glass strikes across all 15 panels in a continuous band, another a symbol of time and the rail line. Behind all is the water, rendered in large brushstrokes acid etched into the glass and shaded in areas with the purest transparent blue enamel.
J. Kenneth Leap