Like, years and years! Loved ones brought me Extreme Sets’ NYC subway car and subway station from the States in the Fall of 2017.
I customized and installed the station pretty quickly, but then there were problems with the lighting. (There are ALWAYS problems with miniature lighting.) I decided to wait a bit and see what I could figure out.
I researched many different types of lights. I got a new type of LED strips for the station, then decided they wouldn’t work. It still has no lights!
I did permanently assemble the subway car seats, using a combination of hot glue and carpet tape to really square them up nicely, and filled in gaps with my beloved Apoxie Sculpt, a cleaner and more paintable finish than spackle. And I spent several years finding vintage 1980s ads to line the headers and side panels. Brooke Shields for Calvin! Take the Plane to the Train! And of course, Crazy Eddie! He’s practically GIVING this stuff away!!!
But I was nervous about the lights. I studied the solutions in use by action figure diorama people, and battery-operated flexible LED strips with adhesive backs seemed the clear winner.
So I did the final customizing and light install on the car…this month!!
And hub and I got to the third season of The Deuce, where they are in 1984. The silhouettes of the coats and the way people’s bangs moved gave me such a stab in the heart of grief, loss and unstuck-in-time that I had to stop our watching for a month.
Then once I’d dug into the archives for a couple weeks I was like fine, I can take it, I’m literally soaking in it anyway.
So we watched the rest of The Deuce, and I’m on twitter talking to the New Mutants fans, and on Instagram talking to the wonderful storyboard artist for the movie, Ashley Guillory, and it’s just 80s all over the place. It is poignant, piquant, sickening, and motivating.
I made the arms for the seats by softening styrene cylinders with a lighter, and yikes they looked like my old drug pipe, lying around.
I had to quickly throw out the failed tries (bending styrene is hard!) because seeing them out of the corner of my eye was freaking me out. Once spraypainted silver, though, they look great!
I was drained by the emotional work of connecting with all this material, and unnerved by the shockingly real look of the car. I just made up lots of random tags. “SEO” actually appears multiple times, because it looked good! I put up the tags of my dead boyfriends and old friends here and there, in the layers of gray-scale marker, but I let it not be the focus. I needed to get this project done, at last.
It is shocking that I survived, and critical that I work, for all the ones who didn’t.
Having this piece done, and putting it in its cubicle underneath the dollhouse, is like sealing up the now-recorded archives of 80s and 90s artwork. It creates a way forward where nostalgia and grief are gently given their places, and respectfully packaged, out of view of my daily life.
You can read more about my dollhouses and their function as memory palace (Gedächtnispalast), Valhalla and memorial below.
The New York subway I knew, in the 80s.