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Art from the underground

Less than a mile away from the Brooklyn subway station where St. Albans track worker Marvin Franklin was killed in April by an oncoming train as he was performing maintenance, his artwork depicting the life of subway passengers is on display.A collection of 38 watercolor paintings and ballpoint pen sketches created by Franklin are being showcased through March 30 at the Transit Museum in Brooklyn Heights, not too far from the Hoyt-Schermerhorn station where he was killed.At Franklin's funeral, fellow track worker Jeff Hill, who was injured in the accident, said there was no time to yell when a Queens-bound G train roared toward the men. "Although Marvin Franklin lost his life in the line of duty... while working the night shift as he had for 22 years, he is remembered as an accomplished artist by day and a dedicated NYC subway track worker by night," the museum said.He turned to art as a hobby after he was injured on the job in 1997, once telling a friend, "art saved my life." Franklin received a degree in illustrative arts from the Fashion Institute of Technology.Franklin, a 55-year-old St. Albans resident, worked the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift on the subway tracks. He would then take the F train at 179th Street in Jamaica to take classes at the Art Students League in Manhattan Ð where he was also a teacher Ð after ending his shift as a track worker.That commute was the inspiration for Franklin's sketches and paintings of subway riders and the homeless Ð Franklin was once himself homeless Ð in the stations.The subjects were mainly either seated or slumped in their seats on the train, as their still positions made them easier for Franklin to draw. Franklin's widow, Tenley Jones-Franklin, was one of those subjects, shown in a watercolor holding the couple's granddaughter on a train.Jones-Franklin lent her late husband's work to the Transit Museum for the exhibit, titled "The Art of Marvin Franklin."His talent was appreciated by visitors to the museum Sunday.One woman who welled up with tears after reading an explanation of the exhibit said the artwork was touching."There's definitely emotion he portrays," she said. "It's somebody's passion for life." Another called the exhibit "the best contemporary art I've seen in a long time."You can't stop without having an emotional reaction to the subject," he said. "Two of Franklin's sketch books that served as blueprints for his more involved artwork are encased in glass in the exhibit.Roxanne Robertson, the director of special projects for the Transit Museum, said accompanying the sketchbooks with the final product in an exhibit is rare."'The Art of Marvin Franklin' delved a bit deeper to offer the public an insider's look (at) the unrefined first impressions captured in his sketch book that inspired his body of work," she said in a statement.Next to a blurb about Franklin at the exhibit is an oil on canvas self-portrait with Franklin seated on a couch with an open sketch book in his hand.It took him two weeks to fill up one 120-page book.Besides his artwork, Franklin was active in his community, where he was the president of the Rome Drive Block Association in St. Albans.

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