Lascaux in the Train Yard / by Philip Krayna


If you walk a train yard, graffiti is everywhere. It is unavoidable. 

I see graffiti as an ally, adding an extra level of depth and colorful spontaneity to the rigid typographic structure of train cars. The hand print sprayed on this train car in southern Oregon bears an uncanny — and perhaps intentional — resemblance to the marks of cave painters in Lascaux’s “Cave of Hands” located in southern France. Like the ancient artists whose hands are memorialized in the cave, the modern graffiti artist searches for a heroic and lasting venue for expression.

Occasionally, the artist will carefully paint around the lettering and serial numbers on the train car, as if some unwritten agreement was formed between the functional markings on the train and the work of the artist. More often, the tagged car is cleaned with solvents or overpainted, and another layer of type is stenciled on top. The battle between the graffiti artist and the train maintenance men wages on and on, making the layers and texture all the more intricate and exciting.