From the image to the colors, Toby Buonagurio plans everything in her work.
Buonagurio, the studio coordinator and sculpture director of Stony Brook’s Department of Art, is known for her colorful ceramic sculptures and innovative designs.
“You know it’s the first time that I’ve shown all of these images of the Times Square Times: 35 Times, which was my artwork commission by the MTA Arts for Transit and Urban design, and so of course all of the work, the original ceramic is in the subway and that cannot move, that’s going to be there hopefully for a very, very, very long time,”Buonagurio said.
The sculptures run North, South, East and West throughout the Times Square subway station.
The images will be displayed at Stony Brook University’s SAC Art Gallery.
Times Square Times: 35 Times consists of 35 ceramic sculptures, which captures the vibrant Times Square atmosphere through several themes, fashion, performing arts and street life, according to the artist.
Buonagurio was one of many artists to compete for the MTA’s art selection. She began creating the sculptures for Times Square Times: 35 Times around 2000, according to the artist. All of the pieces were completed in 2005 and installed throughout the subway station as renovations were completed in the station.
The physical sculptures are permanently installed in light boxes throughout the Times Square 42nd Street subway station. They are public artworks commissioned from Buonagurio by the MTA.
According to Buonagurio, the MTA’s art selection process is an open and competitive process Buonagurio’s exhibition will consist of photographs of her artwork, as well as podcasts of her work, created by Arts for Transit Director Sandra Bloodworth.
Buonagurio took to ceramic sculpture when attending the City College of New York. Buonagurio explains that her use of vibrant colors is because she “came at [ceramics] as a painter.”
Her ability to design, manipulate and glaze, a liquid substance used to color or coat a pottery piece, comes from Buonagurio’s 40 years of experience with ceramic sculpture.
She begins her process of creating a sculpture by sketching several images of what the piece will look like. She then makes the ceramic by firing clay, a two-day process.
Buonagurio uses test tiles to test how many layers of glaze are needed to obtain a certain color.
“Each color requires different coats of glaze. The glaze has to be done exactly because if you put the wrong number of layers, you won’t get the solid opaque color.”
Once a piece is glazed it must be fired. However, when the wrong number of layers are used, the piece must be restarted.
Photographs of her artwork from Times Square Times: 35 Times, will be used at Buonagurio’s upcoming exhibition at Stony Brook University’s SAC Art Gallery.
The exhibition will be held from Jan 27 to Feb 20. A reception will take place on Thursday, Feb 6 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Buonagurio will speak regarding the exhibition the following week on Wednesday, Feb 12 from 1 p.m. to 2:20 p.m.
Buonagurio and a team of individuals at Stony Brook University took several months to plan for the exhibition. They began installing the artwork in the gallery on Wednesday, Jan 22.
The team of people who helped in the preparation process and installation of the exhibition, included Anthony LaViscount, director of Student Activities, Janice Costanzo, Craft Center coordinator, Nicole Hixon an assistant to Costanzo, and one of Buonagurio’s own students and undergraduate teaching assistants Yekaterina Okouneva, among other individuals.
In Buonagurio’s nearly 38 years as a Stony Brook professor, she has taught many students, including former student Costanzo.
Both Costanzo and Okouneva could not be reached for comment by the time of publication.
“Many of my students see my artwork [in the subway] before they have me as a professor,” Buonagurio said.
According to Buonagurio, her work has been included in more than 200 international exhibitions.
She has also held over 20 solo exhibitions.Those seeking to view more of or purchase photographs of Buonagurio’s work can find it on her website www.tobytimessquare.com/home.html.
She also did a piece in the Simons Center for Geometry and Physics when the building was constructed.
“I wanted to do something that had to do with physics, and the iconic concept of physics was earth air fire water,” she said. Buonagurio, who draws her inspiration for her pieces from the environment around her, created the butterflies, which embod the four elements.
“I think of that as my legacy to the university and…I made it with that idea knowing that this would be something that would be there when I’m not,” she said. “That thinking applied to Times Square subway too, my legacy to the city.”
With Buonagurio’s exhibition on the horizon it is a way for Buonagurio to bring something new to her home away from home.
“I think having this show at Stony Brook, you’re seeing all of the images in one place,” Buonagurio said. “It’s sort of importing a little bit of Times Square into Stony Brook.”