Car art of the US landscape: Weird, wacky and wonderful

It seems fitting that car art has taken its place in the landscape of the United States. When Henry Ford was crafting his Model T, he probably didn’t foresee that his innovation would lead to another type of car creativity. Yesterday for Gadling’s day of Weird America, Jeremy posted about Detroit’s gigantic Uniroyal tire that was once used as a ferris wheel at the World’s Fair, and Sean posted about Mystery Hill, America’s Stonehenge. Car art brings these two together in a weird and wacky kind of way.

Drive along I-40 in Texas heading west from Amarillo (or east if you’re driving from the New Mexico border) and you’ll come across Cadillac Ranch. The first time I saw these 10 Cadillacs sticking up in the air in the middle of a field, their noses buried far enough down so that they’d stay in their upright angle, I was relieved. Actually, I think I felt ecstatic. If you’ve ever driven through this part of Texas, you know just how monotonous the landscape can seem. Flat, flat and more flat. Those cars have been a weird but wonderful visual treat for people traveling that highway ever since Stanley Marsh 3 put them there years ago.

Awhile back, I seem to recall, these cars changed colors with various paint jobs. These days, though, anyone can paint on them. Graffiti is the most common approach. Here is a blog by Alan Mizel who spent time basking in the wackiness of Cadillac Ranch as part of his current trip around the world. There are several photos that pay tribute to this creation.

Next up: Carhenge is more than just Carhenge. There’s the Car Art Reserve

We drove to Carhenge as part of our great American road trip from Ohio to Montana and back four summers ago. When we pulled up, our mouths open like a cliche, we came across a friend of Jim Reinders, the man who conceptualized the project. The friend was collecting the trash and was happy to give us background information about the place.

It was a surprise to see her since Carhenge is a bit outside of Alliance, the closest town. I was impressed to see that this attraction is one that has a method to what some might call madness. Next to this wonderfully weird car creation that was conceived of as a tribute to the artist’s father is a picnic area with tables and a parking lot. This is a regular must-see attraction surrounded by flat land. This outdoor sculpture park seems to say, “What’s your hurry? You might as well stay awhile because, heaven knows, the world is a mysterious place. Take a breather.”

Carhenge, a collection of 38 cars arranged in the manner of Great Britain’s Stonehenge, is only part of the 3-D exhibit set out in the middle of nowhere. The Car Art Reserve is included on the property where the creative spirit runs strong in other car artists’ work as well. One that I remember is “The Fourd Seasons.” Made of Ford cars painted different colors, this sculpture represents wheat growing during the four seasons of Nebraska. Part of the fun of looking at the art is to see what each installation is named.

Artists can still submit sculptures. There’s plenty of room. Carhenge’s Web site contains project history and how to become a part of it.

Here are two other examples of weird car art (of sorts) that I have yet to see.

  • At Wilkin’s Oklahoma Truck Supply south of Tonkawa, there’s an 18-wheeler that is perched on its cab with the truck bed straight up in the air. The truck boasts an advertisement for the business.
  • In Oregon Curiosities, the book’s author describes Yard-0-Fun near Fort Hill, Oregon. Located on Twarp Farm, the yard has a red, white and blue pick-up truck up in a tree. The truck is only one of the weird items on display. Supposedly, you can see the car from the highway between Portland and the coast.

And here’s a car art sculpture that no longer exists but may rise again if someone gets a hankering to reconstruct it.

Near Chicago in Berwyn, Illinois there was a car art shish kabob called “Spindle.” Created by Dustin Shuler, this artwork was made from eight cars skewered onto a pole. If you saw the movie, “Wayne’s World,” you saw this sculpture. Unfortunately, the town voted to get rid of the sculpture a few years ago. The top two cars were saved and stored, however, so someone looking to make Spindle 2 has a head start.

And finally, look for car art moving along U.S. roads and highways. In Columbus, Ohio, for example, several car art artists live here. Greg Phelp’s car with a “That Car” license plate is the one with all the doll parts. Here’s what it looks like in snow.

If you have any car art to share, let Kevin Mc at HubPages know. He’s interested. Thanks to his post on car art, I found out about the car kabob. A commenter of the post clued me into the pick-up truck in the tree.

Art car in Texas under fire. Is it art or junk?

The issue of old cars becoming art is not a new one. A few years back, driving along Route 66 in Amarillo, Texas, I looked out for the 10 Cadillacs half-buried, nose first in a row off the highway. I saw them as funky and fun. The piece was titled Cadillac Ranch.

If you’ve ever driven through this part of Texas, you may understand how anything that breaks up the flat scenery is welcome. At least, that’s my opinion. Some have felt over the years that those cars are nothing but junk–an eyesore. Evidently, they’ve become more junky since I saw them. (see article)

There is another art car issue in Texas. This one is very recent. Another car, this one painted by Austin-based artists as a protest to pollution, is involved in a tug of war between the artists and those who say that a car that won’t run is junk. Those people want the car moved. The car, now a cactus planter, is art, the artists say and they want it to stay where it is on I-35 outside Planet K in San Marcos.

According to this article in the Austin News, a judge is to decide if the car should stay or go. Perhaps, the artists need to come up with a spiffy name and attractive signage similar to what one might see in a world class museum. It worked for Wilbur, the pig in Charlotte’s Web. He was saved from the chopping block by Charlotte’s web- weaving handiwork. “Super Pig” could be translated to “Super Car.” PR can work wonders. Even a weird funky item is enough to draw tourists into an area.

I have looked to see if I can find out the ruling, but came up with nothing.

Gadling Delivers an Ohioan a Dutch Delight

I ran into Greg Phelps last night. He’s the art car friend of mine based in Columbus, Ohio who gave me the heads up about the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft and the art car event weekend in Louisville that took place there the beginning of August. He just got back from traveling in the Netherlands.

“Thanks for pointing me towards that Web site,” he said. (Enthusiastically, I might add.) “When I went to the Netherlands, I read all the posts. That crane hotel was the best place I have ever stayed.” The Web site, of course, is Gadling.

Turns out, Greg read Justin’s post “Get High in the Netherlands” about the luxury hotel inside a crane that is just big enough for two people. When he got to the Netherlands he followed through on the travel tip about this unique place to bed down for the night. Greg loved the hotel and mentioned making the crane move just the way it’s described in the post..

It was neat to find out that talk around a punch bowl pays off. I mentioned Gadling to Greg when I ran into him at an art exhibit, poetry reading for mutal friends of ours. He said he was going to the Netherlands to visit his girlfriend’s family. I said, “Hey, you ought to check out Gadling’s Netherland’s posts.” We also made the car art connection since I had just written an art car post thanks to a tip from Marilyn Terrell who often passes on to Gadling gems of interest. As I wrote before, Greg’s art car ended up last year in the event Marilyn tossed to us in an email. Small world.

*This photo is one of Greg’s from his trip. I chose this one since it sure looks like Holland to me. Look for a later post on his art bike which was part of his Netherlands experience.

Art Car Parade

Recently, I attended a very unusual art show. Featuring intricately-designed automobiles of various makes and models, the parade showcased some of the finest, and most unusual, displays of creativity I’ve ever seen. The artists — or “Cartisits” — had taken ordinary cars, decorated them extensively, and turned what many people think of as mundane into sublime works of art. Okay, so maybe a van with giant red lips and big ears isn’t “sublime” — but it’s certainly cool.

Women That Rock was among the most elaborately-decorated cars in the show.

This woman is the cartist who created the car. She travels around selling her art, all of which feature rocks.

Throughout the show, the cars were on display for people to look at and take pictures of. This faded fuchsia van was decorated with suns and Tiki gods.

This beach-themed station wagon was decorated with drift wood and sand.

In my opinion, it won first prize for awesomest hood ornament.

It also had some unusual hub caps.

The driftwood car wasn’t the only one with a beach-theme, though. This tropical wagon one was there, too.

Next up: a car that doubled as a boat.

There’s even a working bubble machine in the back.

We also saw the Stinkbug — a VW covered in cigarette butts.

One of my favorites was this tiny car with a propeller.

But I was also pretty impressed with this Seuss-mobile:

While some of the vehicles there were more “ordinary”…

There were some there that were totally amazing:

This one didn’t looks all that out-there on the outside…

…but it had a surprising passenger inside! See the bar?

I thought this one was clever, but kinda ugly.

Whereas I was pretty impressed with the artistic-ness of the Heaven And Hell Car (“A little good, a little bad — like most folks.”)

I particularly liked its tricked-out topper.

You gotta love a motorcycle that looks like a guitar.

And — for the kid in all of us — the car with toys embedded in it.

I also really liked Mister Doctor Professor’s ride.

If you’re interested, you can learn a lot more about art cars, including:

You can also explore the more than 9000 photos on Flickr tagged “art car”, or hit play and watch an art car parade.