Taking the long view
Artist installs sense of pride in the northern borough
By Adam Wisnieski
Daniel Hauben, 56, stood in the second-floor lobby of Bronx Community College’s new North Hall and Library building, pointing to his mural in the stairwell.
“This vantage point is just fantastic,” he said.
He could have been talking about the perspective from which students will view his artwork as they exit the library, but he was talking about the painting itself.
The painting, “View of the Harlem River,” is based on the view of University Heights from Target’s rooftop parking lot in Marble Hill. It is one of 22 he created for Bronx Community College’s new $80 million building, which opened with school in September.
The collection is called A Sense of Place and there was nobody better to create that sense than Bronx-born-and-raised Mr. Hauben.
In 2008, Bronx Community College commissioned him — the only Bronxite out of four finalists competing for the job — to create the murals.
It was not made official for two years, but in May 2010, he was given the go-ahead and began painting.
“I signed that contract and then I was just pouring out the work,” he said. “I was off to the races.”
Though some of his paintings evoke the surrealism he sees in the Bronx, the scenes he depicted for this project — the biggest of his career — are iconic Bronx.
“What’s quintessentially Bronxian landscape? We have the rooftops, we have the trains, we have the street scenes, we have the waterways,” he said leaning against the railing of third-floor balcony, looking out across a library speckled with students reading and using computers.
Many of the scenes he painted in his Riverdale studio were taken from works he has already completed, like the old Yankee Stadium being torn down as the new one was being built or of the Kingsbridge Armory. Others are new subjects for him, like BCC’s campus, including the Hall of Fame for Great Americans.
He said he wanted the works to reflect the lives of BCC students, so he painted a view of the Burnside No. 4 train station, where many get off for school.
He also wanted the paintings to fit the majestic new building, designed by Robert A. M. Stern Architects.