Art can be created using variety of different 'canvases'

 This art work depicted President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un on the side of a train that was stopped in Rantoul recently.

Last month, Rantoul Press Editor Dave Hinton spotted a train stopped in Rantoul with a well done and interesting “moving picture” painted on its side. 

He took a photo and emailed it to me with a message saying: “Some artist used the side of a train car to draw Trump (on the left) and Kim Jong-Un (on the right). I thought it was pretty well done.” Hinton then suggested, “Maybe that’s a column idea for you. Hopefully you can make it out.”

CAACI float
 The Chinese American Association of Central Illinois entry in the 70th Champaign County Freedom Celebration Parade.

 Although we were not able to find out who the artist was nor any other information about this “moving picture or the art train,” we enjoyed reading this painting, in spite of Hinton’s warning that his photo does not do justice to the painting because he couldn’t get back far enough to take it full on from the side. When I carefully studied the photo, I found the painting fascinating.

 First, this painting, or more accurately defined, this mural, is painted on the side of a train car, which provided an unusual large space, and when the train moves the mural moves with it. So it becomes a moving picture.

Second, anywhere this train stops or runs through, this mural is staged and exhibited at a different spot with a changing audience.

Third, obviously, this painting is a social, political commentary. Spectacularly, the physical movements and the speed of the fast-running train made it into an action and performing art.

And last, but least, the artist artistically captured and commented on the characteristics of these two leaders, which ironically was proved by the two leaders’ historical reality show at the DMZ on the North Korea soil on June 30.

 Painting pictures on trains, buses, taxis and moving vehicles is not new nor is it uncommon, which is often utilized in the advertising industry and in commercial business. But, on the other hand, action art or performing art on the train is an interesting and powerful medium or platform. 

For example in last week’s Champaign County Freedom Celebration Parade the Chinese American Association of Central Illinois participated in the parade and used a decorated car.  

Another personal experience was the ArtrainUSA. I remember that in the late October 2007 I took my daughter Selena to visit the nation’s only travelling art museum on a train for its two-day stops in Monticello. I remember the entire train was set up as a moving art train. 

On the outside of the vintage railcars there were art decorations. On board those vintage railcars, visitors can tour ArtrainUSA’s three galleries and Artist’s Studio. On display was the “Native Views: Influences of Modern Culture,” a contemporary Native American art exhibition, which was at that time recently designated an American Masterpiece by the National Endowment for the Arts. 

During our visit, we viewed 71 artworks by 54 artists and met one of the exhibiting artists, Dina Sherman. After watching her creating artwork on the train and chatting with her, I purchased two pieces of mixed media drawings and collages from her.

 From the exhibition’s displayed texts I took the following notes and now share with my readers:

 …help others gain our Native American culture and at the same time, expose our Native American cultural/arts to the non-native Americans.

 …you may be as modern as you wish, but please learn and take your traditions and heritages with you onto the future. (by Carso Waterman)

 The ambivalent relationship

…we all enjoy the benefits of modern technology, and the other we mourn the losses it has brought. (by Lucy Lippard)

Dr. Ian Wang is the curator of the Spurlock Museum and may be contracted by email at wangyu@illinois.edu