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Alameda Artist Adds Literary Flair to BART

BART stations may not be art galleries, but they are adding posters by acclaimed artist Owen Smith that represent books by Bay Area authors.

The next time you're on a BART station platform, you may notice some curious posters mixed in with the usual advertisements. And you have an Alameda artist to thank.

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 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 works 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. 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 in San Francisco.

“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 projects, the works in this series do not contain explicit messages.

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

BART officials 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.

bette page May 29, 2012 at 02:19 PM
Hurrah! An Artist who is not ashamed to produce "acessible art".
Jan Greene May 29, 2012 at 02:41 PM
Owen's great work can also be seen in Alameda's newly refurbished West end branch library!
Tom Brody May 29, 2012 at 02:48 PM
For readers interested in this news story about events and art taking place in commuter trains, I suggest reviewing the storyline and artwork of the following children's book: The Subway Sparrow (Sunburst Book) by Leyla Torres.
Marla bodi May 29, 2012 at 10:36 PM
EXcellent use of available space!!
Cybelle May 29, 2012 at 11:46 PM
I saw this the other day and thought it was amazing.

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