Nelson A. Gallardo moved to the United States from Colombia and joined the U.S. Army almost 20 years ago. While deployed in Germany, he had the opportunity to study classical art like never before. Today, Gallardo is a project manager with FSG who lives and works in New York City.
But much like a superhero, Gallardo lives two separate lives.
During the day, he wears his hardhat and glasses, shielded from overly inquisitive eyes by his friendly demeanor and personal charm. His daytime responsibilities include guiding and executing lighting and electrical installations and upgrades for businesses and municipal authorities throughout the NYC area.
By night, he changes. He silently disappears from the job site, only to return armed with the tools of his other calling: a palette, canvas, and brush. Gone is the literal hardhat, replaced by a metaphorical artist’s beret.
“Through my art, I wanted to show people all the work that’s being done to save energy and improve the facilities that nobody sees,”Nelson A. Gallardo
That which he was once here to build, Gallardo is now here to paint.
In April, just ahead of Earth Week 2019, Gallardo unveiled his latest creations in an exhibit entitled, “Into the light: behind the scenes in the fight for our planet.” The exhibit, unveiled at the Port Authority, featured dozens of paintings of tunnels, bridges, skyscrapers, and more from in and around New York City as they underwent energy efficiency upgrades. His vision was to paint the reshaping of New York City, through the lens of the city’s efforts to lead by example in making a positive change on the climate, in step with the Paris Climate Agreement.
In April, Gallardo unveiled his latest creations in an exhibit entitled, “Into the light: behind the scenes in the fight for our planet.”
The paintings not only bring to life the structures themselves but the people who worked tirelessly through days and nights to propel these structures into the 21st Century, all under the aegis of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
As a project manager for FSG, Gallardo was tasked with overseeing the development, planning, and construction of several Port Authority projects to help upgrade some of NYC’s most iconic facilities. The overarching goal for the Port Authority has been an ongoing effort to improve energy efficiency and bring the city into alignment with the Paris Climate Agreement.
As an artist, Gallardo used his talent to capture moments in time from each job as well as a glimpse of the hardworking men and women that helped to accomplish the Port Authority’s objectives. From blank canvases, Gallardo conjured a unique perspective on the transportation infrastructure that keeps New York’s lifeblood flowing day and night, year after year. Each piece took about a month to complete and Gallardo carefully chose colors and patterns representative of the working environment in the city.
“Through my art, I wanted to show people all the work that’s being done to save energy and improve the facilities that nobody sees,” Gallardo said.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is serious about its commitment to the protocols of the Paris Climate Agreement.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is serious about its commitment to the protocols of the Paris Climate Agreement. By making the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels more efficient, they are bringing New York closer to reaching those targets. By improving the George Washington Bridge and World Trade Center, they are rededicating some of this area’s most remarkable landmarks to the American ideal of constant self-improvement. By leading the way on these and other projects, the Port Authority is seeking not merely to save on operating costs, but to lead by example in one of the greatest metropolitan areas on the planet.
Not only is Gallardo proud of his artwork depicting these edifices, but he’s also proud of his contribution to this important work. “People drive through the bridges and tunnels and only see traffic,” he said. “But they’re not seeing what’s happening behind the orange cones and all the work that’s required.” His hope is that his art will finally show off the work and the people who have made that work possible.
In many ways, that’s something all art aspires to: providing a fresh perspective, a new way of seeing, a transformed prism of thought. For the men and women of FSG, seeing their efforts portrayed in oil is a confirmation of their quality and striving. Nearly all of Gallardo’s paintings feature at least one worker, bedecked in bright orange and yellow, wiring systems and installing equipment.
New lights that require less energy; new control systems that enable smarter operations; better materials and hardware that will last longer and keep the bridges, tunnels, and airports of New York and New Jersey humming to the flow of humanity for many years to come.
And that’s a vital element in all of this: humanity. The humanity of the workers whose jobs Gallardo wanted to capture, to show to the world. The humanity of the commuters, tourists, residents, and visitors who make use of these structures every day. More than that, though, the humanity of billions of people around the world on whose behalf these energy efficiency projects are being completed. Because saving energy isn’t just about those who are alive today. Smarter operations aren’t meant merely to benefit the here and now, or to satisfy the pressures of today.
What the Port Authority and FSG have done with these projects is take real, powerful, meaningful steps towards creating a better future. It’s an awesome responsibility, being in charge of these tunnels, bridges, airports, and buildings that serve so many people on a daily basis. It’s an even greater responsibility to look to the future of the planet as a whole and to consider how best to make a positive impact that will benefit generations yet to come.
Together, the Port Authority and FSG have met that responsibility, that challenge, head-on. To see that concrete action cemented in place on Gallardo’s canvas is to see the best of human ingenuity and strength. To recognize the art of his brushstrokes is to see the best of our human capacity for self-reflection, and our vast capability to transform ourselves, as well as our world.
More from Nelson A. Gallardo’s collection:
Gallardo used the tags from old lighting fixtures at the George Washington Bridge to create a tribute of the Twin Towers to honor those who died and lost loved ones in 9/11