|Commissioning Entity||Port Authority of Pittsburgh|
|Owner||Port Authority of Pittsburgh|
As an artist, Jane Haskell was inspired by light rendered in French Impressionism, blocks of color created by Abstract Expressionists, the formal elements utilized by Minimalists, and Mark Rothko's (1903-70) use of symbolism. Haskell's artistic approach evolved to focus on simple shapes and bands of color; sleek design and the use of industrial materials; and the compositional effects of light. Moreover, her work elicits a response from the viewer.
In 1984, Haskell was commissioned by Carol R. Brown, then president of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, to create a work for the new public art program for Pittsburgh's transit system. The result was Rivers of Light, a 5,000-square-foot installation of painted aluminum, glass block, and colored neon lights. Located on the platform level of the Steel Plaza T Station, Rivers of Light interplays with the V-shape of the platform; a direct reference to Pittsburgh's Golden Triangle. LED lights (originally neon lights) connected to a timer change from warm colors during the day, to cooler colors in the evening. This change in color emphasizes the flow of the rivers from dawn until dusk. Haskell described her intentions in a 1983 article from the Pittsburgh Press: "I'm hoping to create an environment which is light and interesting and changing so that when someone is coming from home in the morning, it will look different than when they return to the station in the evening." Curator of the 2015 exhibition Jane Haskell: Drawing in Light, Melissa Hiller, described Rivers of Light as, “...so subtle, yet when you see the light emanating from this steel and glass structure it really makes sense that that is what Jane would do. One has to be there to experience the feeling aroused by the light pushing into the dark, cold, concrete subway platform. It’s all about the sensation, the subtle play of perception, that interested her, just like what happens where lines meet in a grid.”
In 2015, restoration was completed on Rivers of Light, including the replacement of the original neon lights with high-efficiency LED fixtures, as per the artist's direction. The restoration work was generously funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and by The Fine Foundation.
By Rachel Klipa, Office of Public Art
Ann Daly, "200-Foot-Long Mural Gets Green Light for Subway Station, Pittsburgh Press, April 26, 1983.
Mary Thomas, "Capturing artist Jane Haskell's light," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 17, 2016.
Mary Thomas, "Obituary: Jane Zirinsky Haskell / Visionary, philanthropic artist who learned to master light, " Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 29, 2013.
"Lighting the Way," Skidmore Scope, Winter 2007. Please see link to the left to access full text.
Jane Haskell (1923-2013) was born in Cedarhurst, Long Island, New York. As a young woman, Haskell designed window displays featuring cosmetics sold in Manhattan's department stores. She became interested in art while attending Skidmore College, and subsequently earned a bachelor's degree in fine art. In 1949, Haskell moved to Pittsburgh with her family. She decided to continue her studies at the University of Pittsburgh's graduate program in art history. After, Haskell taught art history at Duquesne University for ten years. Haskell's interest in exploring the effects of neon light did not occur until 1979 when she made her first neon-inspired work, Light Harp. Haskell furthered her study of neon light based projects with her subsequent works at the Logan Aiport in Boston, MA, Windows of Light, and at the Hollywood International Airport in Fort Lauderdale, FL, Let the Waters Teem. In 2006, Haskell was the Artist of the Year at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, where she organized the exhibit, Symposium on Light. For this exhibition, she brought together a series of her pieces that all focused on the utilization of light. As Haskell herself described, "...light is a pervasive element in the world in which I live. Without light there is no life."