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

2-Way Traffic Returns to Grand Street as Water Main Project Concludes

Grand Street can finally breathe after more than five years of roadwork related to a trunk water main. Closer to home, the stranglehold between the Bowery and Essex Street, which began in February 2015, is “substantially complete,” according to the city. Pavement was resurfaced and striped over the last month. The only real remnant of […]

There is a 50-Foot Henry Rollins Towering Above NoHo for Calvin Klein

Nothing gets between punk and its Calvins. As of this past summer, Calvin Klein counts Henry Rollins as one of its brand ambassadors. Touting all the wild and reckless shit he’s done while dressed in their clothes. Now, the former Black Flag front man, poet, and all around badass is towering fifty feet above East […]

Overbuilt ‘Orchard Street Hotel’ Again Seeks Booze in Saturated Hell Square

For the second time in as many years, hotel operators Nico Moinian and Nader Ohebshalom will try again to install nightlife at the Orchard Street Hotel. As before, it’s an uphill battle in Hell Square that won’t be easy. The lodge opened at 163 Orchard last year, yet without the food and beverage component on which profit […]

‘Taqueria Diana’ will Open at 69 Clinton Street this Spring, Potentially with ‘Street Seat’ in Tow

No more dumplings; no more dookie chains. With C&C Dumpling and the La Socia Pawn Shop gone from 69 Clinton Street, the popular Taqueria Diana restaurant is ready to take over. Both inside and out. Yep. Taqueria Diana is definitely opening a second outpost at 69 Clinton Street, as we first reported over the summer. […]

Photo: EV Grieve
It’s Time to Seriously Protest Moxy Hotel’s Demolition of an East Village Block

Grab the pitchforks. Marriott hotels, vis-a-vis landowner Lightstone Group, began demolition of a half-block of East Village history earlier this month to construct a 300-room lodge. That’s Moxy. The hotel, that is, geared specifically toward millenials with disposable income. The doomed real estate in question is five “landmark-eligible” buildings comprising 112-120 East 11th Street (across from Webster Hall). […]