20,000 Leagues Under NYC

In the late 1800s, Jules Verne drew inspiration from a conceptual submarine model at The World's Fair in Paris, France, leading to his creation of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Seas. In this novel, the U.S. government assembles an expedition on the electric Nautilus submarine in New York City to hunt a mysterious sea monster encountered by ships from various nations. A dramatic battle unfolds as the Nautilus encounters a school of giant squid in the Atlantic Ocean.

Both the novel and a Disney movie made almost a century later have left an enduring mark on pop culture, inspiring various artistic interpretations. When the artist, PJ O’Rourke, moved to New York City, he spent a lot of time in the subway, selling his art from station to station. One stormy night on the L train from Manhattan to Brooklyn, the subway car rocked violently, making him realize that he was on a vessel beneath the East River. This experience flooded his mind with images from Jules Verne's novel.

He saw an opportunity to blend this classic theme with a modern New York City twist. He decided to keep the giant squid but replace the traditional submarine with a conceptual subway car. What if the entire New York City subway system was submerged underwater, powered by an innovative energy-efficient submarine network? And what if, as the L train-submarine emerged into the East River, it faced an attack by a giant squid?

Fueled by this creative vision and his own artistic style, PJ embarked on an exploration of this subway/submarine fusion. Thanks to that rainy night on the L train, the artist found himself in the midst of the perfect storm, bringing this unique concept to life.