CHELSEA — Some subway riders read or listen to music as they travel around the city, unaware that they've become the subject of one Chelsea artist's portrait series.
In “Between Stops: An Exhibition of Subway Portrait Sketches,” artist Robin Kappy will showcase nearly 60 of her works, including 45 pencil sketches of straphangers, at the Chelsea Classical Gallery starting Thursday.
Kappy, a Penn South resident, has been sketching portraits of riders — many on the E, C and L trains — since 2011.
“There’s a kind of timelessness about people on the subway,” she explained. “I have this kind of fascination with time, time travel… [and] when I’m on the subway and I’m drawing, it’s such a timeless experience.”
Her portrait subjects rarely notice they’re being sketched, she says.
“I’ve always tried to be very respectful and not intrude on anyone,” she said. “If they do [notice], I’ll ask their permission.”
The exhibit won’t include the pencil-and-paper sketches she has given away to portrait subjects.
“If I saw someone, a woman who had a really long day, [for example], and she was really tired and didn’t know I was drawing her, I’d give it to her as a gift,” Kappy said.
One of her subjects — who turned out to be another artist — became a friend of hers after he noticed her sketching him, she said.
“He just had a lot of character in his face,” she said. “You see the life of a person in their face.”
Kappy, who draws inspiration from “great masters” like Rembrandt and Anthony van Dyck, as well as contemporaries and teachers, stopped creating art for many years, after she became unhappy working in the commercial art world.
But the Parsons School of Design graduate, who now works as a psychotherapist, realized she “really missed being creative."
She started drawing and painting again “just for herself" around 10 years ago.
“I love to draw, so I’m happy if I’m just sitting there drawing,” Kappy said.
The artist also plans to do “quick portraits” of exhibit-goers on Saturday afternoons while her show is running.
She hopes her work will inspire viewers to be “curious about people’s lives.”
“You know when you go to an exhibit, or you to go a movie, and you leave the movie and everything looks like that movie to you? I hope people come away and start noticing other people in a new way — noticing the light and the dark on their heads, the character on someone, the gesture or turn of a head,” Kappy said.
“I know that’s a big call for some drawings, but that’s what I hope.”
The show runs from May 19 to June 4 at the Chelsea Classical Gallery, 526 W. 26th St., between 10th and 11th avenues.