Pioneros de la Rivera de San Gabriel by Robin Brailsford
Irwindale’s contemplative views of snow-capped mountains and golden California sunrises are the setting for station artist Robin Brailsford’s Pioneros de la Rivera de San Gabriel (Pioneers of the San Gabriel River Bank). Her work is about the town’s legacy that reads like a fable.
In the 1800’s, five families from Mexico came to the Los Angeles Basin. Again and again, other settlers followed, forcing the Mexican families to move on. At last they found peace, but not wealth, along the San Gabriel River. The nearby mountains provided them with an overabundance of fresh water and beautiful black and white “sal y pimento” river cobble. Here, they raised families, farmed, and founded a town that is the City of Irwindale today. The founders’ heirs still live here and prosper in the Jardin de la Roca (Garden of the Rock). In the 1950’s, the scarcity of aggregate for freeways and water for a growing population led to the establishment of Irwindale’s current economic engines: stone quarries and the food industry.
Inspired by the presence of stone aggregate, the station platforms are set with 200 handmade LithoMosaic pavers made of glass, mosaic, stone, and micro-mosaic pieces. Although each paver repeats a singular form, the composition for each design is unique. In blue, they allude to the San Gabriel River’s alluvial fan, and in green, they are an abstraction of each resident’s Árbol de la Vida (Tree of Life). The triangular layout of Brailsford’s custom pavers on the station platforms, visually enhance the experience of movement for train riders. Pierced into the platform’s steel guard hand-railings, passengers will find the words of Axis Mundi, A Song of Irwindale, composed by Brailsford that poetically conveys (in English, Spanish and Aztec) the Irwindale milagro (miracle). The hand-railings located on the entry ramps to the platforms include the surnames found in the city’s centennial city directory. The founders’ names headline this ‘parade’ of international surnames framed by the dates 1860 and 1960.
“In the City of Irwindale, I found the integrity of purpose with staff, residents, and ancestors to create an unprecedented opportunity for an exciting integration of art, history, and light rail transit at a significant scale. As a public artist, I look for the potential in people, places, and things, and then help realize that potential with a vibrant conceptual and tactile experience.”
About the Artist
Robin Brailsford, of Brailsford Public Art, likes to think big. From her modern home and studio on the U.S./ Mexican border, with her partner, artist Wick Alexander and many trusted fabricators, she creates environmental artworks for major transit, education and parklands projects throughout the United States. Raised on the North Shore of Massachusetts, her hometown’s joyous, community-wide Fourth of July celebrations inspire the scale, scope and vigor of her civic work. Brailsford is co-patent holder (with Ron Shaw of Shaw & Sons) of LithoMosaic, a relatively new process for public art. Their process allows for mosaics to be cast in concrete at a vast scale. For the Irwindale Station Brailsford employed a new casting technique with LithoMosaic allowing small pavers to be created. Brailsford has a Bachelor of Fine Art in Metalsmithing from Syracuse University and a Master of Art and Master of Fine Arts in Sculpture from the University of New Mexico. Past and current clients include the United States National Forest Service, the Desert National Wildlife Refuge, Miramar Water Treatment Plant, and the cities of Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Phoenix, El Paso, and Albuquerque.