Eric Edward Esper, ‘1977 CTA EL Train Derailment’, 2013, Gallery Victor Armendariz

1977 CTA EL Train Derailment
During rush hour on Friday evening, February 4th, 1977, hundreds of passengers were commuting home from work for the weekend. Everything was normal aboard the Lake/Dan Ryan line as it turned the corner at Lake and Wabash. Just after turning the corner, however, the operator failed to stop before bumping into the stopped train in front of it. Since the train was moving slowly, the impact was very slight, but the operator applied full power to the accelerator, causing the rear cars to push the four front cars off the elevated tracks to the crowded sidewalks and intersection below, resulting in 11 dead and 183 injured.

Eric Edward Esper

After obtaining my BFA in Illustration from Northern Michigan University in 1996 I relocated to Chicago to pursue my artistic endeavors. Here, I began exclusively oil painting and have assembled a body of paintings chronicling scenes of Chicago done primarily in plein air.

Capturing parts of the city’s landscape during its cultural evolution had been my way of conveying history as a painter. My fascination with landscapes and history has led me to create oil paintings of scenes that have affected us in dramatic ways. Recently I have begun painting aerial views of locations that have interesting historical significance, encapsulating true stories that are hard to imagine and harder to forget. My latest paintings capture these places and depict them with historically accurate attention to detail. Using various sources I recreate these scenes with as many photographs of every angle of the incident and research the stories, submersing myself in the event. My newest body of paintings depicts events with a more historically tragic significance, depicting scenes of the darkest hours in America’s Midwest history, where the landscape became the backdrop for tragedy and calamity. These events that irrevocably altered so many lives are important to remember, not only for the people lost and how it affected our culture, but also to remind us that disaster can occur at any time, anywhere.

About Eric Edward Esper