We’ve all seen them as they crawl in tortoise-like fashion through the crossings of Eugene and Springfield, train cars that are canvases for layers of graffiti art. Some of it is inspiring. Others perhaps not as much.
All of it, though, has caught the eye of Eugene-based artist Sandy Sanders, whose exhibit The Art of Train Graffiti runs through July at the Springfield City Hall Gallery, and it is an interesting take on a slice of the art world that doesn’t gain much attention.
Sanders explains in her artist statement that street creatives paint their images on top of each other. The train staff, in turn, washes it all away and reapplies stenciled signage. It’s a never-ending loop. If a car has layers of art and the train itself has gone through harsh weather, the result can be a train car that has a well-worn and fragile look, even if the car itself is foundationally sturdy.
“My part in these works is to act as documentarian of the above,” Sanders says in an artist statement, “then add my own layer(s) of visual interest. Shaping and reconfiguring close-up view constructions, adding my own ‘tag’ and artworks to this new artwork in a variety of forms and views.”
Sanders does this by combining digital photography, archival inkjet prints, painting, drawing and relief constructions reusing recycled, upcycled and new cardboard supports.
Railroad graffiti began well before the current subculture of graffiti art, according to a 2012 article in Trains Magazine. In the 1920s and the Depression years of the 1930s, “hobos” and railroad workers alike made chalk drawings on freight cars to mark their presence.
Today’s larger and more graphic art, known as tagging, began in the 1960s as part of hip-hop culture, the magazine noted. New York City subway cars were early targets, but soon the practice spread to boxcars and other railroad freight cars.
You can get a slice of this art and its culture at the Springfield City Hall Art Gallery.
The Art of Train Graffiti — An Exhibit by Sandy Sanders runs July 1 through July 28 at the Springfield City Hall Gallery, 225 5th Street, Springfield. The gallery’s hours are 8 am to 7 pm Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, 8 am to 6 pm Wednesday, 8 am to 5 pm Friday 8 and 10 am to 3 pm Saturday.