A ‘fairy tale’ unfolds on the walls of the St. Clair West subway station

The Commuters turn the familiar into the strange

Slowly, ever so slowly, the little bronze critters creep along the walls of the St. Clair West subway station. No, they are not a subtle jibe at the speed of the TTC’s service.

“There is a joke in our work about the mundane kinds of things people lose on the subway: umbrellas; wallets; backpacks and so on. It is a case of seeing the familiar made strange, explains Rhonda Weppler who created the display with fellow artist Trevor Mahovsky.

“The piece is a fairy tale that you can walk into.”

A fairy tale called The Commuters.

Weppler and Mahovsky say the inspiration for the display came from Pierre Berton’s The Secret World of Og. The Ogs are underground creatures that come to the surface at night to create a society out of things carelessly left out by children.

The Ogs got your umbrella

So, when the TTC’s Lost and Found doesn’t have that umbrella or glove you left behind as you raced to get out of the subway car just before the doors closed, now you know who’s got it.

Weppler explains that The Commuters live on the subway walls courtesy of a subway renovation program that set aside money for artwork.

“For St Clair West, we wanted to make something that could exist in a high-traffic area that was not just flat – so many pieces of public art in subways around the world are flat mosaic …,” Weppler says.

The idea won the approval of a jury of artists and curators the TTC recruited.

Meant to be touched

She insists that parents needn’t worry when their kids want to reach out and touch one of the critters.

“Allowing them to be touched is one way to engage kids,” Weppler says.

It’s a long way from inspiration to the subway wall

Weppler spells out The Commuter recipe. It’s not a simple matter.

There are original sculptures to be crafted; waxes need to be cast from molds; bronzes are made from the waxes using the lost-wax process; stainless steel bracing needs welding; sculptures need to be blasted and lacquered.

“Bronzes,” she emphasizes, are particularly labour-intensive. “It’s a fascinating process with a lot of history.”

All in all, from inspiration to installation, takes at least one year.

The Commuters went up in January.  The creators expect an official station launch in September.

Weppler and Mahovsky have worked together and individually since graduating with MFA degrees from the University of B.C. in 1998.

Their work has graced the walls and floors of galleries and subway stations in Canada, the U.S. and England.

To get a flavour of the work they do, visit http://wepplermahovsky.com/ Interested in having a Weppler and Mahovsky creation grace your home or business? Please contact the Susan Hobbs Gallery http://www.susanhobbs.com.