BART Stations Take On Literary Air With New Posters

BART stations may not be art galleries, but they are adding posters of original artwork by an acclaimed artist representing famous books by writers connected to the Bay Area. You can see them at del Norte in El Cerrito.

The next time you're on the platform at the del Norte BART station in El Cerrito, you may notice some curious posters mixed in with the usual advertisements.

One shows a man who looks like he stepped off the cover of a pulp-fiction detective novel. He's standing inside a BART train with an open book in his hand and only a slighty perturbed expression on his face while an Alaskan dog sled pulled by six huskies races past him in the snow-filled car. 

If you look closely at the book in his hand, you'll see that it's The Call of the Wild by Jack London.

Another poster depicts a seated woman in BART car holding an open copy of The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. Around her is a smoky scene depicting two women in traditional Chinese garb, paper lanterns and butterflies.

A third artwork shows a Sam Spade-type man holding a black falcon statuette on a BART train, looking back at a statuesque blonde seated in the car who is highly suggestive of Brigid O'Shaughnessy. Another passenger is shown reading The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett.

The three arworks belong to a poster-art program being installed in unused advertising spaces in a number of BART stations around the system.

They are the creations of artist Owen Smith of Alameda, whose work may be familiar to many people since he's done 18 New Yorker covers, illustrations for detective and children's books and a number of public art works including murals at a Brooklyn subway station and Dashiell Hammett-themed posters on kiosks along Market Street.

“I like doing art that’s accessible,” Smith said in a BART news release. “I like gallery work, too, but the BART posters don't depend on someone going into a gallery to see them. It can be part of their daily lives, their daily commute."

Like two previous BART poster-art pojects, the works in this series do not contain explicit messages.

“If it’s a little mysterious, that’s OK,” Smith said.

BART said Smith, who teaches at the California College of the Arts, liked the idea that reading on BART allowed travel of the mind as well as of the physical body.

“You can spend your time reading on BART, whether it’s a book or on your Kindle or iPad,” Smith said.

Elizabeth Whipple May 28, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Terrific stuff. Bravo to BART. How about another 15 posters? Very cool that BART enlisted Owen Smith, of NYer fame.
Craig B. Wilson May 29, 2012 at 12:55 AM
Wonderful article! Would like to correct the name of the college referred to: It is California College of the Arts (add "the" before Arts).
Charles Burress May 29, 2012 at 03:05 AM
Oops, I was typing too fast. Craig, thanks for catching that. It's now corrected in the article.
LJ May 29, 2012 at 05:16 AM
Wonderful! BART, please post more art in the stations!!
EC Mom May 29, 2012 at 05:20 PM
The very cool Contra Costa Library book vending machine is a great way to pick up a novel for your BART ride!


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