The SF artist goes underground with the “ecstatic” art installation BART – J.

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When Amy Trachtenberg was a student at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris 40 years ago, she fell in love … with the great stations of the 19th and 20th centuries. Intrigued by the interface of transit hubs with the human experience of train travel, she chose to write her thesis on this subject.

Decades later, the San Francisco artist had the opportunity to shape the aesthetic of a station near his home: the new Milpitas BART station.

Commissioned to create a public artwork, Trachtenberg’s work can be seen on 20 structural columns on the platform.

“I have always been intrigued by columns and pillars as sculptural objects,” she says, recalling those she saw when living in France and when visiting temples and sacred sites in India. , North Africa, Mexico and Southeast Asia. (It’s a topic she explored in “Groundwork,” a 2007 commission for a library in San Jose.)

The stylish station opened in June 2020 to a greatly reduced commuter load due to the pandemic. Now that things are on the move again, BART passengers will encounter luminous columns adorned with warm-colored tiles evoking spices such as saffron and turmeric.

Built into the color scheme is a pattern that results from a weaving technique known as ikat, which Trachtenberg chose after researching the community that the station would largely serve.

Amy Tractenberg’s “Ecstatic Voyaging” is an installation of patterned ceramic tiles on the columns of the Milpitas BART station.

Milpitas, a town of 80,000 inhabitants, contains a patchwork of national and ethnic identities, and some 40 languages ​​are spoken by its inhabitants. Trachtenberg often incorporates textiles into his formal mixed media work, and it occurred to him that the ikat could speak of this diversity and provide a unifying motif.

A soft and energetic zigzag design, ikat appears in textiles native to Indonesia, Central America, Africa, Asia and Eurasia.

“It’s an ancient and very complex form of weaving, recognizable in many cultures,” she says. “Word ikat literally means “to tie and bind”.

A local ceramic company, Fireclay Tile, helped Trachtenberg magnify his ikat designs to create an intricate layout of custom glazed tiles that wrap around the eight-sided columns of the station. On the platform, they rise up like exclamation marks, and seen from the windows of a moving BART train, they “become more of an environment, a kinetic experience in which the viewer, and not the work of art. , moves, ”she says.

She named the work “Ecstatic Voyaging”, a favorite expression of the French poet Charles Baudelaire.

Because the new line extension (towards Milpitas and Berryessa / North San Jose) finally places BART in Silicon Valley, the artist has added a contemporary element to his ikat design: the lines and patterns formed in the silicon chip.

“People working in the tech industry recognize computer imaging… in tiles,” says Trachtenberg.

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Trachtenberg is the granddaughter of Eastern European Jews. His father, Allen, sold men’s clothing as an itinerant salesperson and moved the family of seven to California to take advantage of that state’s public education system. (Trachtenberg received his BA in French and Liberal Studies from Sonoma State University before coming to Paris.) His mother, Mitzi, was a visual artist specializing in collage.

Amy Trachtenberg integrated silicon chip circuit patterns with old ikat textile patterns to create the designs of "Ecstatic journey," the new installation of the Milpitas BART station.
Amy Trachtenberg integrated silicon chip circuit patterns with old ikat textile patterns to create the designs for “Ecstatic Voyaging”, Milpitas’ new BART station facility.

“I come from textiles,” says Trachtenberg. “Many generations of men in my family were shmatte vendors, and I grew up playing with fabric sample books. My maternal grandmother sewed dresses for my sister and I from scraps.

Trachtenberg has featured works in a long list of exhibitions, including the 2015 “Found / Made” group show at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles and a 2019 solo show at the Luggage Store gallery in San Francisco.

Currently, his works are part of two group exhibitions: “Break and Bleed” at the San Jose Museum of Art and “Open Field” at the Catharine Clark Gallery in San Francisco. This latest exhibition partially pays homage to German Jewish refugee and Bauhaus artist Anni Albers and Bay Area sculptor Ruth Asawa. Trachtenberg’s contribution is a new work made from deconstructed painted bras, knotted and tied in a suspended structure.

“In this room, and in all my work which includes found fabrics and materials, the human presence is there through the inclusion of everyday objects,” she says.

It also has a work in progress on the facade of the new CG Jung Institute building in San Francisco. It’s done in ceramic tiles and it’s based on a pattern “borrowed from quilts and embroidery,” she says.

No one can predict how long in the future Milpitas’ new BART station will be in use, but the ceramic tiles from the station’s construction and Trachtenberg’s “Ecstatic Voyaging” could last over 100 years, said Jennifer Easton, responsible for the artistic program of BART.

“If the goal of BART and VTA [Valley Transit Authority] is to provide a democratic public transport system for all, “says Trachtenberg,” mine was to express how this station finally unites the diverse peoples of the Great Bay region and their countless reasons for traveling.

“Ecstatic Voyaging” at Milpitas BART Station, 1755 S. Milpitas Blvd.


“Open Field: nine artists respond to the ideals of Black Mountain College”

Limited capacity, masks compulsory. Until September 11. At the Catharine Clark Gallery, 248 Utah St., SF Free.


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