Oil on Paper Mounted on Panel / 6 x 6 Inches
Winter, 1997, on an Amtrak train, somewhere between Lamy, New Mexico, and New York City, I spotted this red engine and grabbed a quick burst with my old Super 8mm camera. Today, while working on sorting and organizing my research images, I spotted it again. The subject was interesting, but so was the setting. The crisp, cold air, ice in the ditch alongside the tracks, the bare trees and power poles, contrasted with the red of the engine was a compelling combination.
Growing up along the Santa Fe line, from a family of railroaders, I've always loved train travel. A lot has changed, though, since my youth. Gone is the rhythmic clickety clack of the rails, now that they are long, welded, seamless,single pieces of steel from coast to coast. No longer can I ride with my head out the window, or standing in the vestibule between cars, the hot or cold wind in my face. It's all about air conditioning now, and sealed windows. The heavy china and silver of the dining cars has been replaced with plastic and the food is not far behind. Bureaucracy has taken the place of service.
I still love it, though. I love sleeping on a speeding train, not knowing exactly where I am, or waking up sitting in a strange town. The ability to walk about, stretch my legs, go for a snack, or a cup of “coffee”. I love the sense of actually going from point to point, as opposed to the feeling I get when flying of having been in one place and then another with little more than discomfort in between.
The thing I like best, remains unchanged, though. I really love the quick, brief vignettes passing by the windows of the train. Fields mountains, plains, lingering sunsets and sunrises are great, but the glimpses of life, homes, yards, crossings, animals, workers, factories, trains, rivers and creeks are the icing on the cake. They appear briefly, then they are gone.
I paint them to try and save them, freeze them, share them while at the same time hoping to celebrate their transitory nature. So how's that for contrast.
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