By ROBERT BAXTER
The trains are not yet running, but the attractive station stops for the South Jersey Light Rail Line are already drawing attention. The stop at Third and Cooper streets in Camden is decorated with tiles depicting the flora and fauna associated with the train's route along the Delaware River.
Only a short walk away from that stop in the Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts, Stedman Gallery is offering a fascinating exhibit featuring the three New Jersey artists who collaborated on the rail line art works.
Sculptor Marilyn Keating, ceramic artist Katherine Hackl and abstract painter Hiroshi Murata display their work along with sketches and models they made for the rail-line project.
The three artists had never met before they were selected in 1996 to collaborate on designing the look for the rail system. As Keating recalls, the three quickly identified "the river and the rail and a sense of renewal" for the theme of their work.
Along with basic motifs, the three artists designed tiled panels that catch the flavor of each stop.
Baseball images scattered with peanuts define the stop for the Trenton Thunder baseball team. A phoenix rising over abandoned factories represents Roebling's hopes for rebirth and renewal.
These handsome panels are on display in Art in Transit: The Camden-Trenton Light Rail. The works display the contrasting talents of the three artists, but also reveal their humor.
Keating's humor surfaces in the sculptures displayed in the exhibition.
Keating created a giant amazon dressed in rows of clothespins and holding a bow and arrows. Her helmet is a lamp part topped by a brush, her breast a metal Jell-O mold. Her face has a look of fierce concentration.
Keating has also sculpted what she calls "manuchipatuchis," playful images made from clay, wire and glass. A self-portrait shows the artist as a cat sticking out her tongue.
"I'm always a laughing artist," notes Keating as she observes a shield she made from beer bottle caps and toothpicks.
Complementing Keating's works are Hackl's elegant stone pottery and Murata's geometric canvases.
"We made a good team," notes Keating. "Hiroshi brought his flair for analysis and abstract design. In contrast, I'm more intuitive and impulsive. Katherine shares both our qualities."
If you go
`Art in Transit: The Camden-Trenton Light Rail' is on view through Oct. 18 at Stedman Gallery in the Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts at Third and Pearl streets adjacent to the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. Gallery hours are Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Thursday until 8 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, call (856) 225-6245 or visit the Web site rcca.camden.rutgers.edu.
Arts Beat appears on Sunday. Reach Robert Baxter by phone at (856) 486-2436 or by fax at (856) 663-2831. Or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.