Through the Eyes of Artists…from the eyes of an avid art collector

Doug Engelman with Metro-commissioned artist Kajsa Sjodin.

I first became acquainted with Doug Engelman at a Metro Art poster signing event earlier this year. He had arrived early, eagerly awaiting a chance to speak with Metro-commissioned artist Alexis Disselkoen about her “Through the Eyes of Artists” poster celebrating Eagle Rock. His unbridled enthusiasm for the poster series was apparent from the get-go. I would later learn he’s an avid collector of the “Through the Eyes of Artists” poster series and is currently in the process of compiling a thoroughly comprehensive collection. Along with acquiring the posters, Engelman has also had multiple opportunities to speak with several of the artists personally. It’s a tenacious hobby that has spirited him to and from every corner of Los Angeles.

You’ve accumulated quite the Metro poster collection over the years. Can you tell us about the very first poster you got your hands on?

I’ve been collecting the series for so many years that I’m not sure which poster deserves the honor of being the inaugural artwork. It might be Highland Park [created by artist Raul de la Sota]. I vividly recall walking up to Raoul’s house one evening to meet him and collect the poster. And here I am all these years later still building the collection.

Highland Park “Through the Eyes of Artists” poster created by artist Raul de la Sota.

What’s it been like interacting with the other artists from the poster series?

Tracking down and obtaining the posters has really been fun. I’ve met a few artists at the poster signings but some of the most memorable meetings have occurred at an artists’ home or studio. Seeing where the poster was created provides another layer of the story behind the artwork.

Sounds like an insightful glimpse into the artistic process.

And what’s really surprising and amazing is these artists have welcomed me into their studios so openly. With some others I’ve had a beer or a cup of coffee and spent time discussing the art. The inspiration behind the project and what kind of stuff they’re currently working on. All the artists have been very accommodating.

They all sound very forthcoming and receptive to speaking to people about the posters.

It’s taken a lot of coordination to get almost all the posters collected. But meeting and talking with the artists along the way has been fun and just as important as collecting the posters themselves. It has led me to all corners of Los Angeles and the Metro system. So I’ve learned a little about different parts of the city.

The posters are diverse and sing the praises of many different regions and cultures of Los Angeles. Which one initially grabbed at you and resonated on a personal level?

That’s just too tough of a question to answer. I like them all. It’s either the color, the subject or the area of Los Angeles that is significant to me. But something captured my imagination all those years ago because it started with just one poster and has led me to many more.

Inglewood “Through the Eyes of Artists” poster created by artist Wakana Kimura.

Why Metro art? Is there anything else that you collect besides Metro posters?

I’m sure the appreciation comes from the fact that I can’t even draw a stick figure very well. And unfortunately, yes, I collect many things. Coasters, vintage music posters, matchbook covers and postcards. The common thread is art, the variance is size.

What’s the farthest you’ve traveled to snag one of these Metro posters?

I once met an artist in Portland, Oregon for a poster pick-up.

In your opinion, which Metro poster best encapsulates our city?

I can’t whittle it down. It’s too difficult. Every poster tells a different story about Los Angeles and that’s what’s so key about the series.

How’re these posters stored? Neatly tucked away for posterity somewhere in a climate-controlled vault? Or perhaps festooned along your walls for all to see, mounted like big game trophies?

The posters are daintily stuffed into archival sleeves and in flat files awaiting some future grand plan. The goal is to build a complete collection and then get it out there to be seen and preserved, but not yet. There’s still more collecting to do.

Eagle Rock “Through the Eyes of Artists” poster created by artist Alexis Disselkoen.

An exhibition of “Through the Eyes of Artists” posters will be on view at Union Station beginning this month. Selected posters from the series will be reproduced and displayed inside the passageway connecting Union Station East and West. Stay tuned for more information about the upcoming exhibition and related Metro Art programming.

About “Through the Eyes of Artists”

In the tradition of celebrating transportation through colorful travel destination posters, Metro commissions a diverse range of Los Angeles artists to create original artworks for the “Through the Eyes of Artists” poster series. The purpose of the award-winning series is to increase ridership by encouraging the public to access the Metro system and enjoy traveling to the many neighborhoods within Los Angeles County. Established in 2003, the posters are displayed on board Metro trains and buses and Eagle Rock is the 33rd in the series.

View the entire “Through the Eyes of Artists”poster series by clicking here.

Click here for more information about Metro Art.

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