What is Art?



What is Art?

There’s something about a pleasant train ride (in this case Seattle to Portland) that frees up my mind, loosens the borders, and allows me to literally look into places I can’t see from a car or on foot. There are the usual bits and bobs of homeless encampments and the “no one will ever see this” mentality of tossing an old mattress and trash bags down the hillside.

This last trip was no exception. I observed that “affordable housing” is generally a stone’s throw from the tracks and wonder how long it takes to get used to the metallic roar and the ding, ding, ding of coming through? What, in the past, I would have mentally tagged as graffiti or defacing property in my bordered mind, I saw something completely different. With the freedom to think in new paradigms, if only for four hours, I saw the work of artists. railroad graffiti

Since my train was going too fast or I was too slow on the cell phone camera to take a photo, I’ve picked a few images from the Internet that feel the most like what I saw. The “Keep on Truckin” graphic style was everywhere but boosted to a new level.

Classic Truckin

Classic Truckin

What I would have “tsked, tsked” about a few years ago I saw as art, great sweeping steel canvases that the abandoned train cars provided. I imagined what it must be like to bring your spray cans, loosen up your arm, and begin to lay down great arcs of color and meaning. Beautiful detailed depictions of rage, love, injustice, gang tags, humans with bulbous noses, Tweet-length observations, and birds in flight.

How wonderful to have an outdoor studio with all the space you need to make art. And if you run out of room, you simply move to the next train car or the underside of an overpass where there is enough primed graying surface to tell your story, whatever it is.

underpass art

Since short naps is required of a smooth train ride past scenery I’ve now seen so many times going down and back from Seattle I closed my eyes and let some of the images—multi-lined, howling colors—play in my mind. What freedom from always coloring inside the lines of my childhood and too much of my life, and the rhythm of knit/purl of the cowl I was knitting to break up reading and gazing out the window. railroad 2

If only I were brave enough to bring a satchel of spray cans down to the tracks, find a couple of waiting canvasses, not squirt myself in the face out of fear of the police or train personnel, and make big, fat, glorious art!

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