The Digs

At the Knickerbocker Avenue subway station on the M line, artist Cal Lane created The Digs, a series of steel sculptural panels that adorn the elevated station platforms with intricate lace-like pattern in the form of steel shovels.


The shovels are arranged in a pattern that is reminiscent of architectural arch often seen in the station’s Bushwick neighborhood. Lane was drawn to the image of the shovel for its contrasting relationship between the functional shape of a utilitarian object and the elegance of a classic arch. Each of the 28 panels was hand carved by Lane with intricate detail that merged two specific architectural ornaments found on surrounding buildings to create a new pattern, one that evokes both the past and the present.


According to Lane, “The imagery on the Knickerbocker panels comes from both a history of the local architecture and a history of my own work practice. I have been working with the shovel image for a while. I appreciate the shovel as a humble, practical object that has an elegant form like a gothic arch. Inverting the spade shape and repeating it made a gothic window tracery creating a kind of sacred space. The shape to me subtly connects class, religion, labor and luxury. The pattern in the shovel shape was taken from the local architecture, patterns that were repeated in the nearby brownstones of Bushwick, Brookllyn.”


Cal Lane, a trained welder prior to becoming an artist, transforms industrial objects into improbably delicate contemporary works of sculpture. Using a plasma cutter or an oxy-acetylene torch, she carves intricate decorative patterns into such industrial cast-offs as I-beams, oil drums, wheelbarrows, shovels, and dumpsters. Her work juxtaposes the domestic with the industrial, marrying functional objects often associated with blue-collar and masculine environments with patterns commonly used in textiles, such as lace, veils or tapestry. These utilitarian objects are thus incised with light and air, and transformed from their conventional past to become beautiful objects.