January 15, 1997

Art exhibition at WSU's Reuther Library focuses on harsh conditions for railroad track workers

A new art exhibition now on display at Wayne State University's Walter P. Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs offers a vivid glimpse at life on the job for workers who maintain the nation's railroads.

"Iron Men, Steel Rail: Track Labor and the Art of Mark Priest" captures life on the railroad as experienced by a man who himself labored as a track repairman for several years with CSX.

Priest, an African-American, will be on hand for official opening ceremonies at the Reuther Library at 2 p.m. Monday, Jan. 20. The event will be among WSU's Martin Luther King Day activities.

In his paintings, some more than seven feet wide and almost as high, the artist uses bright colors and burly figures in action stances to convey a feeling of intense drama. Also included in the exhibit are pencil sketches and an album of 8-by-10-inch photos of railroad workers on the job.

Lending additional realism to the exhibition is a collection of tools commonly used by track workers. Also included are samples of steel track, spikes, a railroad lantern and other objects that convey an "I've Been Working on the Railroad" atmosphere.

The Reuther Library exhibit gallery is open 8:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday and Tuesday and 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. The Priest exhibition will continue through February in celebration of Black History Month.

For more information call the library at (313) 577-4024.

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