Friday, March 21, 2008

Look at that Art Car go!

Cars are powerful icons in our society. There are endless ways to take advantage of that. One of them is by creating art cars that express the owner’s personality, interests, likes, dislikes, taste ... and lack thereof. :-)

"An art car is a vehicle that has its appearance modified as an act of personal artistic expression. Art car artists usually drive and own their own work. They are sometimes referred to as "Cartists". Art car artists or owners often dress in a matching motif when displaying their cars. Art cars and car artists come from all walks of life, uphold a wide range of personal philosophies and beliefs and come from all political groups."

Through their plethora of ad campaigns, car manufacturers would love to convince consumers that "we are what we drive." Rebellion against this dogma has been reason enough for many people to want to create one-of-a-kind art car designs.

I was introduced to the concept of art car in Houston back in the 80’s. There was (and still is, I think) a big celebration and parade each year held by the folk art organization called, "The Orange Show", and a big dance afterward. (Ah, those were the days!) Then, when we moved to the SF Bay Area, we were delighted to find that the How Berkeley Can You Be celebration also had art cars. THIS is a little video I made a few years ago at their parade.

Most car artists are ordinary people with no artistic training. They are largely self taught and self funded, though some mainstream trained artists have also worked in the art car medium. Some consider their art to be created as a source of income or as "professional" artworks. Most others agree that creating and driving an art car daily is its own reward. Well known artists like Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol etc. have designed BMW Art Cars and their work has been reflected in racing cars like the BMW V12 LMR.

Some cars make great flat canvases. Others just ask to be sculpted.
An artist who recognizes and works with the original shapes and lines of the cars yields an even more beautiful creation.

There are many considerations to make in designing an art car. Bold shapes, bright colors and wild imagery are great devices to use if the artist’s goal is to be noticed from afar.

Some car artists opt to use props, sound, light and maybe even smell as they design your car's personality. I recall a group of artist friends in Houston who got very upset with a member of the art coop who decided to glue dead fish to his car. Combine that particular element with the intense Houston heat and humidity and you get one smelly warehouse!

If you would like to make an art car but are a bit nervous about your artistic talents, ask your artist friends to get you started, then join in. Art cars are great "Tom Sawyer" type projects - everyone wants to help, and before long it's looking pretty cool.

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you won't want to miss the next How Berkeley Can You Be art car parade. It will be held from 11-1pm, Sunday, September 28, 2008 on Shattuck in downtown Berkeley.

The next Houston Art Car Parade will roll down Allan Parkway on Saturday, May 10, 2008 at 1 pm. The Houston Art Car Museum is located at 140 Heights Blvd, Houston, TX 77007

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Stacy Alexander