by Molly Boarati, Academic Program Coordinator
Searching for works in our permanent collection for the yearly Summer Reading installation is one of the highlights of my summer. This year, while thinking about author Colum McCann’s novel Let the Great World Spin, I came across a great photo collage by the American artist James Harbour Crable (b. 1939). Hanging in the back of painting storage, the large, colorful image immediately struck me as a perfect fit for the installation.
The collage, titled Times Square: New York, New York and dated 1978, presents a series of cut-and-pasted photographs of people walking up and down the stairs that lead to the busy Times Square subway. With around 10 people on each horizontal register of the composition, the image captures over 100 different men, women and children as they go about their day. The image’s “levels” mimic the subway steps and give a fantastic sense of dynamism and excitement—we know that, above and below these stairs, millions of other faces roam the city and ride the subways rails.
I chose Crable’s photo collage because Let the Great World Spin tells the stories of a variety of New York City strangers whose paths cross in the 1970s in various ways. Young and old, foreign and American, rich and poor, the book’s characters experience the Big Apple in thrilling, heartbreaking, mundane, and inspiring ways. I imagine them as some of the people in this photo collage, passing each other on the stairs. Like us, they go about their day not realizing that each stranger they come across might be the most important thing to ever come their way.
Let the Great World Spin is on view in the Nasher’s Education Gallery from July 20-Oct. 6. Two books discussions are slated for Wednesday, August 21 and Sunday, August 25 and a film, Man on Wire, accompanies the book and installation.
Copies of the book are for sale in the Nasher Museum store.
Image: James Harbour Crable, Times Square: New York, New York, 1978. Photo collage. 35 11/16 x 42 inches (90.7 x 106.7 cm). Bequest of Nancy Hanks. 1983.10.81.