Form and function merge again behind the curtain of self expression.

I first discovered the phenomena of art cars while viewing a PBS documentary, Wild Wheels (1992). Filmmaker and art car owner Harrod Blank documented the people and the cars they use as a means of expression in this short film.

The use of automobiles as a symbol of identity is not new. Hippies used to decorate their VW Buses with flowers and swirls of psychedelic bliss. Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters decorated the bus FURTHER and drove it across country. Hearses too have been used as expressive attention getters.

Since the documentary, the art car craze has grown tremendously. Art car parades, fests and shows have emerged as genuine events. Blank even made a follow up film in 1997 titled Driving The Dream, which featured his Camera Van.

Materials and themes vary with the art cars. Paint, glitter, toys, buttons, beads, foam, magnets and stickers are typical decorations. Regardless of material, it is the vision, the inspiration of these car owners which alters our perceptions within the normal realm of consciousness.

You can't help but stare

Some of the more interesting cars:

  • Shark car - looks like a giant great white made out of foam.
  • Dolphin car - similar to shark, without the teeth.
  • Cat cars - many of these of different breeds; leopard, tiger... some have horns that "meow". Typically, these go with the motif of the particular cat they are meant to resemble, leopard has spots, tiger has stripes etc. The interiors resemble the coats of the animals.
  • Cow car - a Holstein, the interior is made out of astroturf, has plastic cows glued to the hood.
  • Hippomobile - all about hippos!
  • Fin mobile - A giant shark fin atop a van.
  • Green mobile - used as campaign mobile by Ralph Nader and the Green Party. Big green fin on back of trailer like the shark car.
  • Grass car - featured in Wild Wheels - this car is covered in live of my favorites
  • Grass bus - same as grass car and featured in Driving The Dream.

It doesn't end there. People use their cars to create religious icons. Glue and just about any piece of junk can come together to transform a regular means of transportation into a work of art. It seems that the process starts small and becomes a passion. The vehicles evolving from a single bumper sticker to a bumper sticker car. A new folk art.

I have left out Hot Rods and the Yugo phenomena because they are separate nodes, but art for sure.

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