A Painted Commute

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Long Islander Creates LIRR Artwork

Roy Nicholson (Photo by Pat Cashin/MTA)

Hicksville residents and daily commuters on the Long Island Rail Road have no doubt taken notice of the extensive renovations that were made last year to the Hicksville train station. Long overdue, the overhaul brought a sense of modernity to Long Island’s busiest LIRR stop.

Among the renovations were new heated waiting rooms on the platforms, featuring glass-paneled walls with vibrant streaks of paint wrapping around the top panes of glass. However, these painted works of art weren’t installed in the waiting rooms without a purpose.

(Photos courtesy MTA/A Modern LI)

If you’ve bought a ticket or waited for a train in the downstairs ticket room at the Hicksville station, you may have noticed that on either wall there are large mosaic murals. The top halves feature rolling green plains, one mixed with

(Photos courtesy MTA/A Modern LI)

a hint of blue and the other bathed in deep shades of yellow. The bottom halves showcase colors of the sky on the horizon, with one featuring long streaks of blue with subtle stripes of pink and the other with hazy shades of orange and red.

(Photos courtesy MTA/A Modern LI)

“The idea there is that it represents the Hempstead Plains,” said Roy Nicholson, the Sag Harbor artist who was commissioned to create the mosaic masterpieces after being selected from a competition. “So I was referencing the original landscape and also the idea of the train moving quickly across the landscape, you get this kind of streaky blur, so that’s why there’s such long streaks. One side is the morning commute and the other is the evening commute.”

(Photos courtesy MTA/A Modern LI)

To keep continuity throughout the post-renovation train station, the MTA reached out to Nicholson to have him design the waiting room glass, to which he happily obliged.
“So I carried that [mosaic] theme on in the glass and there’s this sort of stretched out quality, which represents the idea of the train moving through the landscape,” said Nicholson of the painted waiting rooms.

Combined, the four 50-foot-long rooms house 72 glass panels dazzling guests with blues and purples and reds and oranges, all seamlessly blended together like a true sunrise and sunset would show. Above each door are two smaller panels depicting one of four different trees consistent with the Hempstead Plains era: cedar, maple, oak and sumac. Each room is named after one of these trees.

(Photos courtesy MTA/A Modern LI)

Nicholson, who discovered he wanted to be an artist when he was just 6 years old, derives much of his inspiration from nature. In fact, the artist cultivated a collection of 52 paintings, creating one each week, from things around his garden.

Rewarded by the gratification of those who see and enjoy his work, Nicholson commented that he can’t imagine himself doing anything else.

“It’s extraordinary when you think about the art that’s been made over the centuries,” he mused. “How out of a tube of paint, people have done amazing things with it. It’s just beautiful.”

To learn more about Nicholson and his artwork, visit www.roynicholson.com.

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