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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

December Updates

Vernacular America - a Solo Exhibition runs from December 30, 2008 to March 7th, 2009 at 550 California Street, San Francisco and features mixed media canvases from the "Barns" series.

Image: Thank You For Sharing Your Day, Railroad Tender, Ingomar, Montana, Mixed Media, 24 X 24, 2008

Other new exhibitions
include the group show "Deuces Wild" from December 12th through January 11th and the Gallery Route One Annual Juried Show from January 16th through February 16th at Gallery Route One, Poin Reyes Station, California. GRO is a community based artists' organization that I recently joined as an artist member. Besides the successful gallery, they direct several community initiatives including La Vida Loca, The Latino Photography Project and Artists in The Schools. It's an honor to be awarded membership in this dynamic group.

I've recently completed work on a Folio of images from the Northern Plains series, adding historical and cultural information to the images. I'm currently working on developing the words and images into a book, and am also investigating the possibility of a television documentary series based on my cross-country trips. Life is very full and exciting,

Friday, October 17, 2008

New Exhibit: 333 Bush Street, San Francisco

A new solo exhibition titled "Re-Imagining The Disappearing Landscape" is on display in the lobby at 333 Bush Street, San Francisco from October 20th through November 26th, 2008. The exhibit is open during normal business hours, and is being produced by Suzy Locke of Suzy R. Locke & Associates, Art Consultants.

The illustrated mixed-media piece is titled "Dr. Pierce's Barn, Old Route 99 East Near Orland, California"; the canvas is 40" high by 40" wide and is on display at 333 Bush Street.

In other news, Eric is now an exhibiting artist member of two Marin County arts organizations, Gallery Route One in Point Reyes Station and Artisans Gallery, Sausalito.

Two new pieces in the "Hawai'iana" series are now in preparation for publication in both booklet and folio form.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Views From the Road - Exhibitions

San Francisco:
A new solo exhibition of my mixed-media art is running from September 8th through November 15th, 2008 at The Transamerica Pyramid Center, 505 Sansome Street (at Clay), San Francisco, California. The building is open to the public weekdays during normal business hours.

Produced by Jan Casey Bertrand of Casey & Associates 415. 834 2394 ( the show features recent images of railroad cars, rural barns, and abandoned structures photographed from America's rural and secondary roads.

The imagery continues my exploration of the changing American landscape, with small towns that only now exist on old maps and in the memories of their former inhabitants.

Many of the Blue Highways, once the main routes between the small towns, are empty of traffic and life itself - forgotten by most. That aspect of our collective history needs to be reviewed, remembered and celebrated.


An article by Leslie Harlib about the current exhibit at ArtBrokers,Inc. Gallery in Sausalito, California appeared in the Marin Independent Journal on September 4th,

The show at ArtBrokers,Inc. Gallery 415. 332 2660 has been extended through mid-October 2008. Further information on the exhibit can be obtained from the Gallery's web site at

You may contact me at Eric Engstrom Fine Arts 415. 453 1647 or at
All Images Copyright 2008 Eric Engstrom

Friday, August 15, 2008

Solo Exhibition At ArtBrokers Gallery in Sausalito, CA

A solo exhibition of recent mixed media pieces titled Roadside Distractions by Eric Engstrom will run from August 22nd through September 21st 2008 at
ArtBrokers Gallery, 2660 Bridgeway, Sausalito, CA (415 332 2660).

The opening reception will be held on Friday, September 22nd from 5 pm to 8 pm.

Featuring new views from America's secondary roads, the exhibition references commonplace vernacular buildings and ordinary landscapes converted to emphasize the extraordinary beauty in the details and images.
Eric relives the classic American road trip and preserves moments in time through his images.

Born too late to go "On The Road" with Jack Keruoac but old enough to appreciate Easy Rider, and the writings of William Least Heat Moon, John Steinbeck, and Larry McMurtry, his visions of America also owe much to the photographs of Robert Frank and Michael Eastman.

Limited edition giclee art prints of Engstrom's work can be viewed and are available at

Monday, May 26, 2008

U. S. Highways from the 1930s: Vanishing America

William Least Heat Moon's book Blue Highways, published many years ago, celebrated the roads that appeared on early road maps as the main routes between big cities and small towns across America. Many of these main roads were consolidated into the Interstate system, bypassed, and abandoned during the 1960s. Truly the main streets of America, these mostly two-lane roads were often built adjacent to railroad right-of-ways, and went through the center of every town they passed through. Most were completed in the years before the second World War,, and some still survive as the major transportation arteries between smaller towns.

Some of my favorites include surviving sections of U.S. 30 through eastern Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois (The Lincoln Highway), U.S. Routes 20 and 20A in upstate New York from Albany to Buffalo, U.S. 12 through Wisconsin, Minnesota, and South Dakota (called the Yellowstone Route in some area and the Lewis & Clark Highway in others), old U.S. 550 from Durango through Ouray to Montrose, Colorado, and parts of "The Mother Road", and the remaining original sections of U. S. Route 66 from Chicago to southern California.

Many town centers in America's heartland have never recovered from being bypassed in the 1960s by the new Interstate system. Where the center of town was the engine that drove local businesses, there are abandoned stores, theaters, filling stations, railroad depots that have never re-opened, d by the ubiquitous chain stores, fast food restaurants, and convenience stores. Family owned highway motels have been abandoned to the "easy on, easy off" divided highway exits. Even the wonderful small-town coffee shops and diners where one could converse with locals about politics, the economy, or the weather have disappeared forever, replaced by Circle K and 7/11 stores that sell gas, snacks, bad coffee and microwaved "meals" to go

Another aspect of traveling the blue highways is to note the changes in agriculture and the disappearance of local grain elevators and the abandonment of family farms, replaced by massive corporate farms and processing facilities. Nowhere is this more noticeable than in the northern plains of South Dakota and Montana where brick two-story schools have been abandoned because of out-migration of the families they served. Roadside motels and filling stations have also been abandoned or reinvented as low-cost housing and repair shops that no longer sell gasoline.

Some of the most striking architectural survivors on the road are railroad stations, many with classical architectural themes, that now stand empty or are barely maintained as local museums only open a few hours a week. In the downtown centers, most of the "picture palaces" where Americans watched movies in the 30s and 40s are abandoned and empty. Some, like the Royal in Archer City, Texas, the setting for Peter Bogdanovich's film "The Last Picture Show" (written by Larry McMurtry) live on as places where special events are presented. Most, however stand empty, as do the drive-in theaters that dotted the landscape in the 1950s.

Most of my travels have concentrated on recording the abandonment of much that America stood for in the past - that sense of small town community, pride in local differences, and a sense of the past. By recording these vernacular buildings and landscapes, and recreating the images as multi-media artwork, I'm hoping to at the least make us aware of some of our history, and the culture that created the buildings and blue highways.

Eric Engstrom - May 27, 2008

"We photographers deal in things thatare continually vanishing, and when they have vanished, there is no contrivance that can bring them back again." - Henri Cartier-Bresson, Photographer, 1952

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Notes from America's Blue Highways

Two long trips back and forth across America along with several shorter trips on secondary highways that once served as the main connectors between cities are the inspiration for this blog. Over 18,000 miles of driving and over 1,000 photographs have served as the basis for the creation of unique digital and mixed-media artwork celebrating the vernacular architecture of rural and small town landscapes.

Written observations of changing the physical and cultural environment of towns no longer on the main roads, and the effects of development along the Interstate highway network are illustrated by both photographs and original artwork