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Julie's Tacky Treasures

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Art Cars

"When something's fantastic enough and marvellous enough, it can't be in bad taste." --Dora, in Iris Murdoch's The Bell

Art cars are truly tacky treasures. American society is obsessed with cars. The U.S. automobile industry markets cars to buyers as extensions of a themselves. Often, a buyer chooses a car for something beyond meeting their transportation needs...he or she sees it as way of expressing a status the driver either has or hopes to have. But no matter how striking and remarkable a car the industry manages to make, they always manufacture thousands just like it. How individualistic is that?

Art car artists take the the concept of a car as an extension of oneself to its illogical extreme. They make cars covered with buttons, they write messages all over their cars, they make it look like their favorite animals, and they do it all to show the world who and what they are. And how I admire them for that. I've always been fascinated with people who are outrageous in one way or another. But it's not enough to be outrageous for its own sake. There are many examples in the American media of people who say and do outrageous, shocking things, but they don't elevate the level of discourse in society, and they don't provoke people to think, and sometimes they are downright hurtful to others.

But people who create art cars do it to express something that they have to share with the world. They engage your attention. Who can ignore a car that looks like a hippo, or is covered with plastic soldiers? They entertain, by being silly or provocative or ironic. They make you think.

It's also important that they be roadworthy and street legal. Otherwise, the world is never going to see them, right? That means that art car creators must have the mind of Picasso, the skills of Mr. Goodwrench, and a wallet full of money that gets emptied, over and over again.

There are two films I have seen on art cars, both by Harrod Blank: Driving the Dream and Wild Wheels. Everytime I watch them, I get the urge to run out to Strosnider's Hardware and buy a glue gun. Someday, I'm really going to do it.

Copyright © 2000-2010, Julie Mangin. All Rights Reserved. April 2, 2016