10 Questions with MetroCard Artist Nina Boesch [Interview]

Posted on: July 26th, 2012 at 11:38 am by

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure – particularly in the world of Nina Boesch. While lazy straphangers discard their MTA cards atop turnstiles, swipe machines, and train platforms, she picks them up and turns them into unique New York-inspired collages.  She’s been at it for ten years now. The MTA is playing their typical “non-response” card to her art (though we think they should work with her to jazz up the underground). We had a chance to find out more about Nina’s MetroCard makeovers – read on.


Bowery Boogie: How did you come up with the idea for this project?

Nina Boesch: I moved to the US [from Germany] in 2001 and rode the subway every day. I liked the look and feel of the MetroCard so I never threw one away, and they added up quickly. I didn’t have a purpose for my MetroCard collection until a year later, when I needed a gift for my host-parents  (a wonderful couple I lived with in Morristown, NJ at the time). I was on a very tight budget, so turning my MetroCards into an artwork seemed like a good idea for a gift. This first MetroCard collage was a map of the United States, and my host-parents liked it so much, that they motivated me to create more collages.

BB: How do you get enough cards?

NB: My friends and coworkers collect their cards for me. One of my friends collects MetroCards wherever he finds them – sometimes he finds whole piles of cards just sitting on that swiping machine where people check the value of their used MetroCards. My friend never gives the cards to me right away though. I get them once a year in a big box for my birthday. You wouldn’t believe how happy a person can be over a birthday gift that is literally trash and has $0 value.

BB: What do you draw on for inspiration?

NB: I’m inspired by everyday life in New York. A walk down the street triggers enough inspiration for a dozen collages.

BB: What has been your most difficult collage?

NB: It’s a challenge to create portraits of people who I don’t know. I love to work on a Woody Allen or an Audrey Hepburn portrait, but when it comes to strangers that I am just given a photo of, it’s tough. I created a portrait of a close friend’s mother once. She had passed away a year before, so you can imagine the pressure of getting the portrait right, and making her look good. My friend loves the artwork, but I now tend to stay away from this sort of pressure.

BB: How long does each collage take?

NB: Obviously, it depends on the size and complexity of the motif, but generally a letter-sized collage takes between 6 and 10 hours, while a large scale collage measuring 30 x 40 inches can take up to 80 hours.

BB: You’ve been doing this for over ten years, is this your first year exhibiting metro card collages?

NB: Last fall, I had an exhibit in the lobby of 350 Bleecker Street, a residential building in the West Village. It was somewhat of a kick-off for a more professional approach to my hobby of creating collages from MetroCards. Currently I am exhibiting at The Bean, a popular coffee shop on 2nd Ave and 3rd Street. The show will be up until July 31, 2012. I also have a few pieces at House of Art Gallery in Brooklyn, and my larger collages will soon be part of an exhibit at the Nu Hotel, also in Brooklyn.

BB: Have you reached out to the MTA about your project?

NB: Yes, I tried several times to get a licensing deal with the MTA, so that I can put the official seal on the back of my artworks. My goal is to sell my original artworks, postcards and prints at the Transit Museum stores in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Unfortunately the MTA has had little interest in my art so far. The first time I contacted them by mailing several copies of a small handmade portfolio booklet. Took me forever to make, but they never even responded to me. I had also emailed them but didn’t hear back on that end either. I tried getting their attention again last year when I started having exhibits. This time, there was a brief email exchange, but unfortunately it didn’t lead to a licensing deal either.

BB: Do you have a favorite collage?

NB: I hate pigeons in real life, but as black-and-white MetroCard collages they are somewhat beautiful. I did a really big one, 40 x 30 inches earlier this year. I really like that one a lot.


BB: Any good subway memories?

NB: Nothing noteworthy, but I have a great airplane memory! I was all buckled up on a plane at JFK airport, ready for departure to Brussels, Belgium. Just when we were ready to go, I was escorted out of the plane and questioned by six rather intimidating men in suits. It turns out the TSA had found my art supplies (2,000 old MetroCards) in my checked luggage. They alarmed Homeland Security and held the plane due to the “ongoing investigation.”  Thankfully, I was allowed back on the plane, but my luggage wasn’t – that was confiscated.

BB: Any chance of a Bowery Boogie collage in the future?

NB: Wait… Are you commissioning me to do a collage? Hold that thought… let me get my scissors…

For more information, and to check out her other collages, visit Nina’s website MetroCardYourself.

[h/t Apartment Therapy]

Recent Stories

Harper's 1898, Collection of Maggie Land Blanck
Revisiting the Iconic (and Photogenic) Tenement Fire Escapes

Ah, the iconic New York City fire escape. Sitting out on your “escape” really is just that. The breeze. The city below your feet. The views. The sounds. The smell (to each their own). Fire escapes have always been crucial to New Yorkers for a variety of reasons, least of which, surprisingly, was escaping fire. […]

Forgtmenot family is opening a new Greek spot a few doors down
Forgtmenot Family is Opening a Traditional Greek Restaurant on Division Street Called Kiki’s

For the moment, it remains the epicenter of cool. The eastern terminus of Division Street continues its hot streak, yet will see more change in the next few months. We have it on good authority that the Chinese supply business at number 130 – Zhen Ling Tan Taoist – is to become a new restaurant. […]

pike-street-benches
Seatless Benches Along Allen Street Mall are Missing Slats Due to Manufacturer Defect

When the city revamped the Allen Street Mall a couple years ago, residents welcomed the spiffy new street furniture. Late-night conversation sessions or mahjong games are a common sight around here. Not to mention homeless pitching camp for cookouts. However, the equipment is proving fairly cheap and unreliable. Those curvy benches in the medians are […]

abcnorio-mural
ABC No Rio Commissions New Mural by Dasic Fernandez

Continuing the apparent bi-annual painting schedule, ABC No Rio this week replaced the two-year-old “hands” mural thrown up by Brian George in 2012. Its successor is more colorful and exudes somewhat of a political tone. For its latest piece, the beloved Rivington Street art collective commissioned the services of Dasic Fernandez to decorate its exterior […]

40clinton-street
Blue Bayer Design Studio Opening an Eclectic Jewelry Boutique on Clinton Street

Ever since the departure (and subsequent relocation) of Vector Gallery back in July, the south store of 40 Clinton Street has been a vacancy. The wait is over. Blue Bayer, a New York-based craftsman, is opening his jewelry boutique here in the coming days. It’s called Blue Bayer Design, and specializes in eclectic, “risky jewelry and […]