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Commuters 1982

by George Segal, 1924-2000

George Segal’s Port Authority “Commuters,” much like the figures in his “Gay Liberation Monument” in Christopher Square in the West Village, are plaster casts of real people. The first figure is his wife Helen, the other two are former student George Kuehn, and his wife Carol.

To make these sculptures, Segal casted each of his models’ bodies section by section with plaster bandages. After it had dried, each section was removed and reassembled, which could take up to six months to complete. The plaster figures were then cast in bronze and given a coat of graffiti-proof paint, which creates a protective surface that paint cannot bind to. Both the clock and door that the figures face were salvaged from Port Authority’s 1980’s renovation. Segal had the hand of the old departures clock removed, putting the commuters in perpetual limbo.

Though some travelers passing through the station saw the sculptures as a form of mockery for their constant traveling, Segal viewed commuters as heroes. “These are long-suffering people,” he said. “I have a high regard for them.”