Sunday, March 30, 2014

Street Art and the Painted Desert Project

High Desert Babe wheels past Thomas' Love Train mural - July 2011
The east end of Santa Fe's Railyard Park has a big 'ol red caboose parked there near St Francis Drive northbound. It's been there for as long as I can remember. Someday soon there'll be a cool new underpass constructed right there that will neatly tie the Railyard/Guadalupe Districts to the Hickox/St Anne/Baca St Districts of town along the new Acequia Trail.

That Railyard caboose has just sat there overlooking things from its well-trafficked perch through the last several decades. She can generally look pretty worn down, especially when aspiring young artists markup the red car-walls with tags and immature scribbles. In the fall of 2010 however, the caboose looked glorious. Artist Chip Thomas (aka Jetsonorama) was commissioned to put up a wheat paste mural of playing children, and the transformation of old railway relic to contemporary art chic was jarring. I loved to ride by there and marvel at how glue paper and ink could have such a bold effect on that forever-dusty corner setting.

Pool Diver
The paper and images have worn away since then with sun exposure and the rotation of seasons. The Pool Diver on the north-facing side remains but the piece has poor visibility from trail or road. I often wonder if the caboose will be re-done and made new again! Better yet, what other number of scribbled walls and faded surfaces around town or beside the trails could be costumed with new meaning and fresh outlook?

All this imaginating and curiosity got me reading about the artist, Chip Thomas - and whoa - could not have envisioned what an impossibly badass guy this dude is. Grew up in New York, heavily influenced by the nascent hip-hop and graffiti scene (now more developed and categorized as street art). He now works as a practicing physician with Indian Health Services on the Navajo Nation and in his spare time dreams up and  pastes these transfixing images that mirror the people and lands themselves. An extended body of work that he and visiting artists and his pasting team (calling themselves No Reservations Required) pulled together in 2012 they call the Painted Desert Project. The images themselves are ordinary, but their size and setting somehow become extraordinary when viewing. I love what this guy does.

All work by Chip Thomas
More images at the artist's site,

John Begishie

King Fowler

Laughing Woman

Open Hand

Standing Sheep

Watching Tank
Related Posts:
 - Shepard Fairey's Newest Artwork
 - New York's Incredible High Line Park
 - Not Seen on Treadmills - Shepard Fairey Edition

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