Why This New York Subway Mural Of A Gay Couple Is So Important

The New York subway system is making headlines this week, with the opening of its long-awaited Second Avenue line. One of the new stations along that line is newsworthy on its own for reasons far beyond New Yorkers' morning commute. A mural at the 72nd Street station depicts two men holding hands, a depiction of gay partners that's rare in public art. The station's mosaic murals by Brazilian artist Vik Muniz are collectively called "Perfect Strangers." They depict the kind of people you might regularly see on the subway — a girl holding a balloon, kids with soccer balls, a man losing his newspaper, a guy in a tiger suit — all standing as if they too are on the platform. Among those people are Thor Stockman, 60, and his husband, Patrick Kellogg, 47, according to the Associated Press. The work is based on a photo that was taken of them three years ago, they told the AP. As familiar as such a sight may be in our everyday lives, it has not been the subject of nonpolitical, permanent public art in New York City, according to art historian Jonathan David Katz. "What makes it a turning point is it isn't gayness singled out and made the theme," Katz told the AP. "On the contrary, the work naturalizes gayness within the fabric of the city, and in so doing, that's actually an even more powerful message."