Interview with David Csicsko, the Redline Belmont stop artist
As most of you Redline Belmont stop users already know, the Belmont Redline train station has a new detailed mosaic. If the artwork looks similar to the old mural, it is because it is done by the same artist, David Csicsko. I met with Csicsko (the Hungarian pronounciation is “cheech- ko”) a couple of days before the installation was complete.
Csicsko’s installation includes a mosiac wall and 11 columns: two inside columns, nine outside. The mosaic wall inside the train station is 20 x 6 feet, the interior columns are covered completely while the exterior columns feature a 4 x 6 ft mosaic just on the very top, ˝to protect the artwork from the elements”. Csicsko explained that the ceiling columns were particularly difficult to install. (Csicsko hung out at Ann Sathers every day during the installation to answer any questions the workers might have.)
All in all, it took one whole year, from sketches to installation, to complete the project. Csicsko realized he wanted to keep the artwork similar to the previous installation but couldn’t figure out the exact design until he had a “eureka moment” on a plane flying out to Albuquerque, New Mexico.
I realized it should be a train, and it should reflect diversity, I should include as many people as I could.
Csicsko’s figures use different colored stripe coordinations, that “could cross boundaries that wouldn’t be literal” – the stripes on the faces allow all kinds of backgrounds to be reflected, he explained.
Csicsko wanted to do the new installation as a mosaic because mosaics are “durable, and don’t need a lot of upkeep. There is also a great tradition of mosaics in train stations, in Paris, Rome, New York City. The use of mosaics go back before the Romans, it’s a time honored tradition, but my images are modern because we’re modern. I like celebrating the past but nodding to the future.”
Csicsko says he’s been doing art for “forever” but began doing mosaics six years ago with Erin Adams. “One things led to another- I was asked to design a mosaic for a house and a friend suggested an Italian company. Years later a church asked me to design stations of the cross. I thought they’d be beautiful as mosaics and that’s how I found Erin”. (Erin Adams collaborated on Csicsko’s train mosaic by helping with color and tile size)
Over the course of the project, Csicsko flew to Adam’s studio in New Mexico six times. Southwest Creations assisted in putting together the mosaic, and the mosaic was transported to Chicago in 2 x 2 sections. The mosaic was assembled on a flexible mesh screen and nothing broke during transit, but some specialty pieces did unfortunately crack.
The figures inside the train were all inspired by Csicsko’s friends. Csicsko did manage to sneak his dog into the design, and what he calls a young Obama. Csicsko calls the first large figure from the left, “the Goddess of Belmont”.
“Good design looks like it belongs there, it feels appropriate, it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb, and the colors should all go together.”
During the installation, Csicsko received many positive comments, like “oh, it’s sparkly” or folks were amazed by how dazzling the glass is. One of the CTA workers came up to Csicsko during the installation and told him “it’s like I made a dream come alive.˝ He was especially pleased with that comment, because ˝If they can see my imagination coming through then I’ve done my job”.