This spring, six accomplished representational artists ride a legendary train line, stopping for a day at each of six locations along the route. They paint for a day, re-board the train, and move on.
Staying at small-town motels some nights and beautifully-restored historic hotels on others, the artists finish their campaign with three public events. They stop in Santa Fe for a one-night pop-up show at a respected gallery. The six then ride the rails west to a fabled railway hotel in Winslow, Arizona, where they oversee a public painting event. Finally, after an overnight ride to the Pacific and train trek up the coast, the journey, the artists, and their work are featured at the Plein Air Convention & Expo in San Francisco.
The rail line they’re riding is itself historic — and imperiled. This is the route of the legendary Super Chief, paralleling the Santa Fe Trail and Route 66, threatened with discontinuance by Amtrak management, which sees a clouded future for long-distance trains. Remarkably, in this era of hyper-partisanship, the Congressional delegations of these affected communities have banded together, working to try to save the Chief, the only public transportation link for many of these towns.
Engaging in the great tradition of field painting — a tradition that stretches back to Thomas Moran and the painters of the West (who themselves traveled to the opening frontier by rail), through the Impressionists, and back further to the Renaissance — these artists capture the essence of these small communities, struggling perhaps, but tied together by the rails.
The project is called En Train Air, the title a play on “En Plein Air,” the French term for outdoor painting.