colossus-of-roads

“I’m a retired railroad man who indulged in the folk art tradition of making chalk drawings on the railcars as an announcement of presence, and diversion from boredom. Although against the rules of the railroad, it was a common enough practice by the employees and hobos, by ignoring enforcement it was de facto tacit approval, for I dispatched drawings for 32 years of my 41 years of employment without interference. The initial purpose of this blog is to record the language used in my frequent boxcar icon dispatches.” -Buz Blurr

[Photograph via Bill Daniel]

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An amazing thing happened awhile ago… Buz Blurr (aka Colossus of Roads) sent me this stencil that he made. Shortly after Blake’s death, he used the stencil for boxcar dispatch images before minimizing the image and creating sheets of stamps for his mail art. I feel grateful and privileged to be able to use these pieces in the art and design of the upcoming reprint of The Fifth Goal and beyond as we develop a traveling exhibition for the zine and the art documented in the zine.

Buz Blurr/Colossus of Roads is regularly featured throughout the issues of The Fifth Goal, and is the central focus of Issue #4. Here is a great passage from the interview that Blake conducted with him in Issue #4:

Q: What do you think of death, and does it motivate your art?

A: O Death! Kafka said, “The meaning of life is that it ends.” O Death — won’t you spare me for another year! Decidedly, my icon titles frequently refer to Death and Sorrow. As my inevitable demise becomes closer and closer, still I harp on the platitude of mortality. Vita Brevis. Papercide Park. The tenuousness of life as thin as a sheet of dissolvable paper.

Q: After thirty years, what keeps you going?

A: It is hard not to despair when you see so many of your icons covered with spray, but the realization of the impermanence of the drawings has always been a constant — now spray is added to the wind, the rain, the sun, which obliterated the lines of admitted resignation.

Q: So the desire to counteract impermanence is what keeps you going?

A: Ultimately the transitory nature cannot be counteracted. To maintain a presence in the rail net, one must assume the drawings made today are replacing the ones of yesterday, evaporating into the ether. Breakman of Monotony. A Zen Koan says, “If something is boring for five minutes, give it ten. If it is still boring after ten, give it an hour…a day…a year.”

Q: Approximately how many trains have you painted?

A: That would be hard to estimate. I’ve been on it nigh on to thirty years. Some days only a few drawings, some days over a hundred. And long stretches of none at all — those periods when I questioned the harm to my psyche of this obsession. Invariably I returned to this “Equilibrium Device,” unable to figure a more productive outlet for my expression.