For most Chicagoans, the El’s dirty steel trains are just a screeching, annoying necessity of life; for an artist, it’s another canvas. Some choose to draw graffiti, others like to spray fake blood all over them and write “Real Patriots take Public Transit” and “Storm the Castle!” in the windows—just like the one currently hanging inside A.Okay Official’s modest gallery. Unfortunately, this conceptual train isn’t life-sized (yet), but in model-sized, two-foot long form and hanging alongside thirty-five other train art creations, at least twelve of which are more peculiar and eyebrow-raising than this bloody, castle-storming artifact.
The interior of the gallery on this night could appropriately pass as the inside of an El during rush hour, as myriad young adults are willing to stand uncomfortably shoulder-to-shoulder to inspect the model trains. Also similar to the El, there’s plenty of alcohol here. Following along the floor, which has been painted to mirror the familiar CTA-issued train route map, people walk the Red Line from Sheridan to 47th to behold a model called “The Take Over” one half inhabited by eyeball organisms and the other half sprouting assault rifles.
A drawn-in rider proudly moons any onlookers from the latter half, presumably pissing off the eyeball people. A train titled “Charon” creepily sits on its own table, its sides severely damaged to reveal the tortured souls inside, skeleton-like demons that closely resemble Iron Maiden’s beloved mascot Eddie.
Two Bohemian-looking hipsters study a train with a cartoonish depiction of Garden of Eden painted on it when one of them accidentally touches Eve’s bare breasts, tilting the train thirty degrees. “Dude, it’s crooked,” the heavily bearded hipster says, as his companion carefully levels the train with extreme caution. “It was great, but you messed it up.” A model train on its own embodies geekiness, but a model train with naked Biblical characters on it? That is hipster approved. (Andy Seifert)