Editor’s note: This is the finalinstallment of a three-part series about the artists selected to fill the incoming Expo Light Rail’s three Santa Monica stations.

The terminus station of the incoming Expo Light Rail is arguably the most significant. Stopping at Fourth Street, it will be the first station dropping riders off at the edge of the Santa Monica Bay in decades.

Judithe Hern√°ndez, who has a storied career creating public (and smaller-scale) art and can remember when trains were more prevalent in the region, is the right artist for the job.

Taking thestation instead of a station meant doubling the amount of panels she’d planned on creating from 12 to 24, with only five and half months to finish them. Her pastel drawings were turned into glass mosaics.

Fortunately, Hern√°ndez, who cut her teeth as a muralist back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, has the experience and knows how to stay consistent (not unlike a train).

“I was producing a major piece of art a week,” she said. “It was kind of crazy. But I’m very disciplined so as scary as it was, I knew I could do it as long as I stayed on my schedule.”

Hern√°ndez’s pastel works are evocative, colorful, and often political. Her Expo panels are designed to relate to everyone, but especially kids, and have been stripped of the nudity and religious references that can be seen in some of her other work.

She was drawn to the station work, in part, by her love for and personal history with trains.

“My dad and my grandfather worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad for decades,” Hern√°ndez said, “and I’ve traveled on trains from the time I was an infant in this country and in Europe and in other countries and I love the train. I’ll be 67 in March and I can remember Los Angeles when we had trains. And then they disappeared and it was very disappointing.”

She explored several themes when creating the panels, which, collectively, are titled “L.A. Sonata” as they represent the movement of music.

“One of the interesting things that I read is that, as people have migrated across the planet, there is a greater tendency for people to have migrated from east to west rather than north to south and I thought: How interesting is that,” she said. “This train is going east to west.”

She also strove to capture the diversity of Los Angeles, with its hundreds of cultures and languages spoken.

“I thought: That’s a huge assignment, girl, because you can’t completely address every single culture that lives here,” Hern√°ndez said, laughing. “But I thought I’d make a good try and I thought the best way to do that was to take mythology and iconic images from as many cultures as I could grab and mix them in a sort of L.A. remix.”

And as if she didn’t have enough work for a five and a half month super-project, she decided to give herself a few more parameters.

“There are two movements that move across the station,” Hern√°ndez said. “One is the passage of the day from morning until night and the other is the seasons, from winter to spring.”

The panels are designed to grab most viewers’ attention for a few seconds but she hopes that some will stop and stare.

“There’s a whole generation of kids who’ve grown up in Los Angeles who don’t know that experience,” she said of the new train riders. “Now, they’re going to get a very contemporary experience of what it’s like to be on a train and travel and that hasn’t existed here in a very long time. And when they step out of those trains I’m hoping that some little kid will look up at these and go, ‘Oh, my teacher was just talking about that.'”

dave@www.smdp.com

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