Bummed Out

Sitting at a railway crossing as the train cars cha-chunk, cha-chunk in front of our car, we tend to stare at the clock in the dash, watching the minutes slip past. But those who risk nausea and look instead at the cars might catch a glimpse of art, though they might mistake it as just scribbling. But where others see a disturbance in their commute, filmmaker Bill Daniel sees "rolling steel canvases" on which teen-agers armed with spray paint and true-life hobos with chalk leave their signatures.

Daniel's documentary about hobos, the legendary rail riders who crisscross the country leaving their monogram on the trains they've ridden, is as unconventional as the lifestyle it records. Called The Girl on the Train in the Moon, it's more appropriately a documentary installation with videos and sound recordings combined to look like a hobo campsite with a fire and the moon above. In essence, Daniel, a former Dallasite who used to hold screenings at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary, rode the rails to meet the people who "chalk up" the train cars and chase the legend of Bozo Texino, whose signature has been circulating for decades. This isn't the kind of story one finds sitting at home.

Likewise, Vanessa Renwick, Daniel's fellow Oregon filmmaker and partner in the Lucky Bum Film Tour, finds some of her stories while traveling. She once walked barefoot across the country, hitchhiking and following stories for nine months. The result was Crowdog, just one of the documentary shorts Renwick will present as Go, Baby, Go!, her 70-minute compilation and contribution to the Lucky Bum Film Tour. It also includes Richart, her award-winning film about a Washington man who assembles found objects in his front yard to make a constantly evolving sculpture garden. Art is sometimes where one least expects it. Luckily, Renwick and Daniel are around to point it out to bums like us.

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Shannon Sutlief