Artist’s giant hands getting ready to join kissing jets in Capitol Hill Station

(Image: Josh Kelety for CHS)

(Image: Josh Kelety for CHS)

Forney's Crossed Pinkies will soon become part of the landscape along Broadway

Forney’s Crossed Pinkies will soon become part of the landscape along Broadway

"Here’s a photo of me re-drawing the “Walking Fingers” design for the West Entry," Forney writes. (Image: Ellen Forney with permission to CHS)

“Here’s a photo of me re-drawing the “Walking Fingers” design for the West Entry,” Forney writes. (Image: Ellen Forney with permission to CHS)

As Capitol Hill Station is racing toward completion, so is progress on the public art that will eventually call the structure home. Meet Ellen Forney: a local cartoonist, Capitol Hill resident, and professor at Cornish College of the Arts who has joined the effort to beautify and humanize the future station.

She says the project is a “zillion” times bigger than anything she’s ever done.

“The brush lines are going to be like these thick ropes,” Forney tells CHS. “I just can’t wait to see it. It makes me giddy.”

Forney has designed two massive murals to be displayed in the North and West entrances of the Sound Transit light rail station now under construction along Broadway. One is called “Crossed Pinkies” which is 40 feet long and 13 feet high, and will hang in the North entrance overlooking John Street. The other piece for the Broadway entrance, “Walking Fingers”, will be 20 feet by 28 feet.

Forney, originally from Philadelphia, has been a professional cartoonist illustrator since the early 1990s, and has dabbled in a variety of other artistic mediums since then. She landed the light rail station gig back in 2008 after submitting a series of paintings of hands in provocative positions to Sound Transit — paintings which had originally been featured in the 2007 Seattle Erotic Art Festival. The series was called Big Fucking Hands.

“I really like to be … suggestive, even explicit, but not necessarily graphic or representational. So even when the hands were doing very sexual things, it was just the hands,” says Forney. “Hands have so much personality.”

Walking Fingers will stand  20-feet high

Walking Fingers will stand 20-feet high

Mike Ross and crew in 2010 after after receiving the A-4 Skyhawk fighter jet for the future installation in Capitol Hill Station (Image: Kat Nyberg Photography with permission to CHS)

Mike Ross and crew in 2010 after after receiving the A-4 Skyhawk fighter jet for the future installation in Capitol Hill Station (Image: Kat Nyberg Photography with permission to CHS)

Given the public nature of — you guessed it — a public art project, Forney wanted to create something non-specific yet universal that passersby can relate to. The “Crossed Pinkies” piece will also introduce light rail riders to Mike Ross’s “Jet Kiss”  — two disassembled fighter jets facing one another suspended from the ceiling of the belly of the station — and the common theme of large-scale interaction and meeting-in-the-middle.

Forney’s murals will be made of steel paneling and porcelain enamel, the latter of which Forney says is a misunderstood material. “Porcelain enamel sounds really fragile. But it’s not … it’s really, really strong,” she said.

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Forney likens the process to that of making finished pottery. The roughly 4-foot by 4-foot steel panels will be “fabricated” by KVO Industries in California where they will undergo a silkscreen process of applying the enamel paint designs via a massive squeegee before being stuffed into a piping’ hot kiln and fired to perfection. The panels will then be shipped up to Seattle for installation.

Currently, Forney only has sketches drawn, in addition to a single prototype panel she made herself.

With several different people and entities involved in the creation and installation process of the project, Forney is still getting used to having help. “I had to rethink what ‘your art’ meant,” she said. “Like if someone else actually had their hands all over it could I still say it was ‘my art’?”

She may end up going down to California to oversee the process, and maybe even participate directly. “I’ll probably end up doing [that] because that is the kind of person I am.”

The red construction wall surrounding the Capitol Hill light rail construction site has been a community art gallery of sorts but with many if not all of the pieces designed as temporary works often with no plan for what happens when they come down. The permanence of Forney’s murals in the Sound Transit station is a new and exciting notion for a cartoonist who has typically drawn illustrations for one-time rapid reproductions. 

“To have it be something that is going to sit in the landscape of the neighborhood where I’ve lived for 25 years, and that I can give that to the community… is amazing,” she said. 

The murals are slated for fabrication in spring/summer of 2015 and installation in the coming fall. The station itself is scheduled to open for service connecting downtown to UW via Broadway by spring 2016.

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16 thoughts on “Artist’s giant hands getting ready to join kissing jets in Capitol Hill Station

  1. I suppose the ‘smurf turds’ dividing the bike path and Broadway were done by a local cartoonist as well?

    There is already art on ‘the wall,’ especially the side facing Cal Andersen. But it’s probably too much art for the NEW Capitol Hill.

    These are the masterpieces of the new Capitol Hill:

    [IMG]http://i62.tinypic.com/osaek8.jpg[/IMG]

    [IMG]http://i57.tinypic.com/2mcwy2v.jpg[/IMG]

  2. I’m sure Ms. Forney is very talented and worthy of having her art displayed in such a public place. However, I would prefer to see something which is more representative of Capitol Hill, such as some large vintage photographs of Broadway or Volunteer Park in earlier times. For me anyway, it makes more sense to have art which is more evocative of our neighborhood.

  3. I can’t think of an artist more appropriate to the (admittedly recent – last 20 years) history of Capitol Hill than Ellen Forney. The kissing jets, though? Have nothing to do with Capitol Hill.

  4. White hands and warplanes… Capitol Hill is being royally trolled by these artists I think. I sometimes applaud irony, but not this time since everyone has to walk right past it.

    @genevieve, fighter jets have nothing to do with us here? I am not so sure.

  5. Whoops, typo on that caption of the plane. It should be “A-4” or even “A-4 Skyhawk” if you want to be more poetic about it. ;-)

    • Thanks. That one slips back in from metadata every time I post this photo! Hopefully fixed for good! And of course I picked the poetic version :)

  6. I’ve always loved Ellen Forney’s work and I agree with Genevieve that I can’t think of a single artist more attuned and aligned with Capitol Hill. From the pictures that I’ve seen of the Mike Ross piece, Jet Kiss, it’s going to be pretty spectacular. 2 deconstructed jets, painted pink and kissing. Seems pretty Capitol Hill to me. I’m really looking forward to seeing both of these pieces as new Capitol Hill landmarks.

  7. Pingback: Artist’s giant hands getting ready to join kissing jets in Capitol Hill Station | Josh Kelety

  8. Agree with calhoun. These are certainly magnificent works that would be appropriate for display in a variety of settings. A subway platform is not one of them. Mass transit art should, necessarily, have a mass appeal. Decorating a subway platform is like decorating a motel room – the only criteria is what the fewest number of users will find revolting. A wall mural of oversized historic photos are dull and utilitarian but they fit the bill.

  9. “the only criteria is what the fewest number of users will find revolting.”

    What a sad, sad definition of art. Art should inspire, it should make you think, fill you with joy, or sometimes even anger. But most of all it should move, engage.

    • But shouldn’t we get people’s consent before intervening to engage them, fill them with joy or sometimes anger, etc.? These folks are just trying to travel on the light rail.

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