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Metropolitan Transit Authority, 'Arts in Transit', Assunta Sera

The first time I walked into Grand Central Station, images of the past flooded up before my eyes. The monumental spaces of the churches, cathedrals, palaces and courts of Italy, where I was born, reappeared. Then, as suddenly, I was transported into a world of private memories: the moment I arrived in America. The hustle and bustle of people of all walks of life coming and going in their public and private existences reminded me that this was a place of transit and transport in more ways than one.

As I stand inside the serenity and stability of the vast hall, I am awed by the building's visual splendor. The slanted shafts of light shooting down from the tall windows of the clearstory are as heavenly as the starry constellations pictured on the arched ceiling above. Everything is in motion in the midst of that great immobile space, balanced between transience and permanence, lightness and darkness, mass and void, commotion and silence. The intimacy of this immense public space is paradoxical but magnetic for exactly that reason. Like its name, it stands as a central symbol of American mobility. How many stories have passed through its halls? How many lives have embarked upon old or new paths through its gates? Not only for what it symbolizes, but for its poetic presence and dignity of spirit, I recall with gratitude the thwarting of the plan to tear it down by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

I decided to paint Grand Central, so I took tours of the station, viewing and photographing it from points above and below, becoming familiar with it in a way that transcended its everyday character. Then, in the studio, I painted from memory, using the camera's records as a springboard for my imagination, to paint an ode to that temple of American experience. While my paintings can never match the grandeur of that edifice, I hope they can impart the feelings of beauty and spirituality inspired in me and bring further appreciation for this icon of American architecture.

Original Painting, Oil on Canvas, 1996
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