'Subway Therapy' offers election reflection for New Yorkers


Leave it to New Yorkers to find solace in a subway station.

Commuters have been flocking to “Subway Therapy,” a project started months ago by artist Levee Chavez that has taken on new meaning in the wake of the nation’s most divisive presidential election in recent history. Chavez sets up a table, displays his credentials – a certificate deeming him a PHB, or professional human being – and lets straphangers pour their hearts out on Post-It notes that fit neatly within subway tiles.

And this week, those Post-Its are covered in messages about the election, from the poignant to the profane, with dozens of them stretching down the long corridor that connects the 14th Street 1/2/3 station to the Sixth Avenue L stop.

“What surprised me the most is the numbers – I didn’t really expect there to be people that were so passionate about it,” Chavez said, standing beside his project this afternoon. “I did expect people to be awesome. I expected people to be able to take their energy and their frustration and their stress and channel it, with just a little bit of assistance, into something incredible.”

The walls are littered with brightly colored messages of support for Muslims, women, immigrants, people of color and others who might feel threatened by the policy proposals of president-elect Donald Trump. There are messages of support for Hillary Clinton, who fell short of her bid to be the first woman elected president.

Mirem Villamil, 50, of Brooklyn, came with her 13-year-old daughter Carmen in search of understanding. She said it’s been difficult discussing the election with co-workers who supported Trump.

“I work in public schools and some of the teachers there – our kids, the majority are recent immigrants, the majority of their parents are undocumented. How could you vote for Trump? How could you vote for Trump if you’re a woman? How can you vote for Trump if your students are girls? If they’re Muslim, and all different colors and all different languages and all different situations? How can you do that?” Villamil asked.

It was also difficult, she said, to discuss with her daughter, given Trump's lewd comments about groping women without their consent.

“Wednesday morning, she woke up and said, ‘Mom does this mean more women are going to get raped? Does this mean that more women are going to be assaulted and that nothing is going to be done?'” Villamil said. “I’m still trying to find what to say to her.”

Below, you can find some of the messages people wrote on the wall, and some of the people who penned them.

Adam Shorr, 27, of Brooklyn, helped hand out materials to people who wanted to share their feelings. (Credit: Jillian Jorgensen)

A message on the wall beckoned straphangers: "Express yourself." (Credit: Jillian Jorgensen)

There were many Post-Its to choose from. (Credit: Jillian Jorgensen)

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Basil, a pug belonging to Jo Simon, got into the action. "It's like all kind of emotions -- you're angry, you're upset, you're afraid. But at the end of the day you know people will unite," Simon, 33, said. Having Basil to pet helps, too. (Credit: Jillian Jorgensen)

The notes made for a more colorful wall than commuters typically see. (Credit: Jillian Jorgensen)

Andrea Reese, 54, and her wife Alice Ro, 49, of Brooklyn, said they were feeling a range of emotions.

"I've been feeling desolate, disappointed in our fellow citizens and wanted to feel like some sense of community again," Ro said. "And hearing about this -- it seemed like a place to come."

"I think the whole world has to see us speaking out. Even though people may see the numbers, they may know Hillary got more of the popular vote, to actually have visual representations of all these people is really important," Reese said.

(Credit: Jillian Jorgensen)

This note took a dig at the size of Trump's hands -- a reference to his apparent annoyance at Graydon Carter labeling him a "short-fingered vulgarian" in the pages of the now-defunct Spy Magazine. (Credit: Jillian Jorgensen)

Chris Chapman, 37, of Brooklyn said he came out of a desire to feel better about things.

"For me, it really is a combination of like deep, deep hate -- or really anger, so mad. And then that's easily turned into feeling despondent or feeling afraid. So it's really like any of those three emotions can be seen on the wall."

(Credit: Jillian Jorgensen)

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One of many notes that were geared toward women. (Credit: Jillian Jorgensen)

As throngs of commuters moved through the tunnel, many stopped to write their own messages. (Credit: Jillian Jorgensen)

The messages stretched a long way down the subway tunnel. (Credit: Jillian Jorgensen)

This cluster of messages included thanks to Clinton, and her famous quote: "Women's rights are human rights." (Credit: Jillian Jorgensen)

There were also messages of support for Clinton's primary challenger, Bernie Sanders. (Credit: Jillian Jorgensen)

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More commuters jotting down their feelings. (Credit: Jillian Jorgensen)

There were even references to the wall of notes itself. (Credit: Jillian Jorgensen)

 

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