I started my journey along railroad tracks a while back, as a way to discover and understand, and sometimes connect. Over the years, I painted railroad tracks, up North along the Hudson River, and South on the High Line; I even painted along the JR Line in Tokyo. My most recent Hudson Yards paintings came as a natural extension of the Grand Central Station and High Line projects.
At the beginning of the 19th Century, the first school of American landscape painters explored the dramatic wilderness of the Hudson River Valley. They lived in New York City, and traveled up North by train. I decided to follow in their footsteps and, in the summer of 2007, boarded a train at Grand Central Station on the Hudson River Line. I got off at every single stop, working my way up North, and painted every station along the way. I made a point of keeping train station and river in sight whenever possible. It took me two summers to complete the 30 stations.
In 2009, I travelled to Japan for work, and spent three months there. The Tokyo JR line became my next track project. Based on watercolors I painted on site, I executed 17 oil paint kakemonos featuring 17 views of the JR line.
Back in New York, a new development provided the inspiration for another systematic track exploration: the High Line. Dating back to the early 20th Century, this elevated railroad track snaked from warehouses and industrial buildings, through the meatpacking district and cheap housing for the waterfront workers, to the undeveloped railroad yards of Pennsylvania Station. The tracks eventually shut down. In the beginning of the 21st Century, the abandoned tracks were landscaped and turned into a park. For this series, I focused on the Steps to the High Line, painting all staircase accesses to the park.
In the past two or three years, the scale of the Hudson Yards development reminded me of the excavation work that was done a century earlier to build Pennsylvania Station. I then decided to set up my easel in the same area from where George Bellows executed a series of four oil paintings: Pennsylvania Station Excavation (1907-1909). Like Bellows, I wanted to celebrate this project. The Vessel, Heatherwicks’ centerpiece, is the focus of several paintings.