Rebecca Solnit redraws New York subway map with ladies
No matter how you look at it, New York City is a male dominated place in many ways, starting with the infrastructure where the vast majority of the named streets honor men. Rebecca Solnit, who has written a lot on the environment, politics, feminism and art, tries in her new book Nonstop Metropolis: A New York Atlas to correct this subtle survey of men with City of Women, a subway map for women where every stop recognizes an important New Yorker.
“It is a card that reflects the remarkable story of charismatic women who shaped New York City from the beginning,” wrote Solnit in an excerpt from the book published in the New Yorker. These women have made names for themselves in a variety of ways, from singer and actress Jennifer Lopez and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who is just three stops from Line 6 in the Bronx, to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt (Union Square ) and TV personality Judy Sheindlin (Ocean Parkway).
A range of characters from the art world are featured, including Peggy Guggenheim (86th Street on 4th row), Louise Bourgeois (47th-50th Streets, Rockefeller Center) and Lucy Lippard (Prince Street). Maya Lin and Harmony Hammond share Canal Street Station, where trains J, N, Q, R, Z and 6 converge. (You can find an enlarged version here.)
Nonstop Metropolis is co-author of Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, and artist Molly Roy was the project’s lead cartographer. It is the third, and possibly last, book in Solnit’s atlas series that uses imaginative maps to illustrate the culture, history, and economic realities of cities. The first two volumes are Infinite City: An Atlas of San Francisco and Unfathomable City: An Atlas of New Orleans.
“There are cultural capitals, three port cities on the three coasts of the United States,” Solnit told the Guardian of the three locations in the trilogy, noting that “Tennessee Williams said,” America has only three cities, New York, San Francisco and New Orleans . The rest is just Cleveland. ‘”
The City of Women may represent New York, but it deals with a problem that has a global reach. “Almost every city is full of man’s names, names that identify who exercised power, who wrote history, who owned wealth, who was remembered,” wrote Solnit. “Women are anonymous people who, during their marriage, changed the names of their fathers to husbands who lived privately and, with a few exceptions, were comparatively forgotten.”
It’s not often thought about, but all three cities are actually named after men – an Italian saint (San Francisco), the Duc d’Orléans (New Orleans), and the Duke of York, brother of King Charles I (the whome finally New York comes). Also easy to miss is the ubiquitous manner in which male names dominate New York place and street names, from Bleecker Street, named after a local farmer, to Columbus Circle and Hunter College (the latter originally a women’s school, but still named after Thomas Hunter)).
“It was really fun creating the women’s card. I’ve learned a lot about women who have shaped the world for me and will continue to do so for future generations, ”Roy said in an email to artnet News. “It was fascinating to see how different types of women were / are attached to different areas of the city.”
City of Women is changing this “manscape” and imagining it as a feminist utopia in which women’s achievements receive the recognition and recognition they deserve. “We fixed New York,” Solnit wrote when she shared the map on Facebook.
At least one of the women featured has already expressed their approval of the revised subway map. “It’s a great honor to be accepted,” wrote performance artist Emma Sulkowicz on Facebook, whose name appears at 1 103rd Street. She made national news for her graduate thesis project at Columbia University, in which she carried her mattress around campus in protest at the school’s handling of her rape allegations.
Nonstop Metropolis will be released on October 19th, but you can already take a peek at the Queens Museum, where the book-inspired artwork by Duke Riley and Mariam Ghani has been on view since April.
Follow artnet News on Facebook:
Do you want to be one step ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest news, insightful interviews, and succinct critical attitudes that’ll keep the conversation moving.