The Ultimate Individual Expression of Art and Transportation
Whether you drive one or just look at them, an art car is an experience. They combine fairly common modes of transport and unique artistic visions into rolling works of art. Some people create them to make statements, others make them just because they feel driven to do it. (pun intended)
Art cars are sculpted, painted, glued and assembled via any means possible. Some have become so elaborate and heavy that they are no longer street legal, which to me seems like it would take some of the fun out of owning one. At special parades and gatherings, this quirky group of car owners assembled to compare their creations and show them off to the world.
Pull over for a rest stop and check out some Art Cars!
Seattle's Annual Art Car Blowout
- a fun and festive part of the Fremont Fair in June
This is an amazing high-heeled shoe car that I photographed at the Seattle Art Car Blowout. This fantastic art car show is part of the overall festivities known as the Fremont Fair, aka the Fremont Solstice Parade, an annual event that happens in one of the sections of the city of Seattle.
Art cars come from all over for this show with the majority being from the state and along the West Coast.
The Solstice Parade and Art Car Blowout take place the third weekend of June in Seattle and you can find a link for this event (Fremont Fair) in the "art car show" list below.
My first encounter with Art Cars
Harrod Blank and "Oh My God!"
There's just something to be said for someone who is so willing to claim their anonymous mode of transport for their own. People who boldly make their car not just one-of-a-kind, but also make a political or social comment.
I lived on Laurent Street in Santa Cruz, CA when I finished college back in 1989. I can tell you that the guy who brought art cars to the mainstream, Harrod Blank, lived in my neighborhood. I know because I used to see "Oh My God!" parked on the street all the time. OMG was Harrod's VW bug and his first art car. It had a TV on it. It had pinwheel daisies and a mailbox and it was all sorts of colors. I learned who it belonged to because my college roommate's friend used to date Harrod. She's the girl who "understands him" in his movie 'In The Land of The Owl Turds.' True story.
So far, I've never owned my own car, but I'm pretty sure that if I do, it'll just have to be an art car. By the way, I got this photo of OMYGAWD when it came to Seattle in 2010! It's still the same car but it's got a lot more artistic density than when I first saw it in the 1980s.
The History of the Art Car
In the end, a lot of human inspiration and perspiration can go into the creation of an art car. Some arts cars are like rolling murals, with elaborate painted designs. For other creators, their art car is a mass of epoxy and small objects glued to the surface. And some art cars are unique constructions featuring original metalwork or highly-adapted car frames. There are even art cars that are so outside the allowances of what is federally-mandated for automobiles that they are no longer street-legal and have to be brought to art car shows in trailers.
About Art Cars - Groups and enthusiasts explain the lure of the art car
- ArtCar Museum
The Artcar Museum, aka the "Garage Mahal," opened in Feb of 1998.
- Harrod Blank Art Car Agency
Welcome to the Art Car Agency! This site may be viewed in three ways depending on your interest and needs; Art Cars by Name, Art Cars by Region, & Art Cars by Genre.
- Seattle Art Cars
Welcome to Seattle Art Cars Poke around a bit - you might like what you see...Be sure to check out upcoming exciting events like the Seattle Art Car BLOWOUT
- Kodak: Art Cars
"You are what you drive." It simply means that people express their identity through their choice of vehicles.
- Our Art Cars
The Cosmic Fleet belonging to Royce, Nita and Ty
- Slide Show: Everyone's Art Car Parade
Art Car slideshow from the New York Times, from May 2006
- âLuke, Iâm your fatherâ By Nick BÃ¶tticher
Nick BÃ¶tticher modified this CitroÃ©n HY to look like Darth Vader!
- Modern Mechanix Â» AUTOMOBILE SERVES AS STAMP ALBUM
Check out this "art car" from 1939!
- Cupcake Art Cars
all-electric mobile muffins from Kinetic Pastry Science
- These Canvases Need Oil and a Good Driver
The BMW Art Car collection, which has been displayed at museums including the Louvre and the Guggenheim Museums in Bilbao and New York, began with another marriage of auto and art when the French racecar driver and art dealer, HervÃ© Poulain, persuad
The Art Cars of Rocket Bob - A spontaneous visit to the Goldfield Art Car Park in NV
So, there we were... driving along... minding our own business.... Seriously, my friend Calyxa and I were in the middle of a road trip in Nevada in May 2006, when the highway we were driving down suddenly posted decreasing speed limits. Ah, the sign that a town was ahead. Sometimes you'd come across a big city, sometimes it was a ghost town.
The road was going downhill and we were turning a bit to the right as the road came around a building corner. And there they were. I pointed and burst out "Art Cars!" and already my friend was pulling the car over. Something to be said for those in-town 25 mph speed limits after all.
We had come across the Goldfield Art Car Park and the creations of Rocket Bob (Robert Van Kauren). We'd actually heard of him, in a conversation with another art car guy only just three weeks ago on another road trip.
It was clear from the stickers that these cars make regular appearances at Burning Man. One also bore a sign reading "Reno Cacophony Society." There was so much to see, it was hard to see it all. Thank goodness both of had digital cameras quickly at the ready. We only stopped for about fifteen minutes, but it was a dense and rich quarter of an hour. Truly delighted, we left donations in the little box that was provided, jumped back into our car and headed off to the next adventure.
Interestingly, when we compared pictures later, we found certain visual elements we'd taken nearly identical pictures of, and other little bits that only one of us had noticed and captured.
That Beautiful Crust Of Stuff! - the density of lots and lots and lots of tiny things all glued onto a car. as long as it doesn't flatten the tires, there's noClick thumbnail to view full-size
Grooovalicious Purple Princess of Peace
Several years ago in San Francisco, I saw a fantastic art car on the street and snapped a picture of it. I especially like that there was a Blue Meanie flying glove on one of the side view mirrors. When I first put up this lens, I used that picture for the introduction.
And then one day, I got an email. A woman had come across my lens and recognized the intro picture as a detail of her very own art car! Her name is Avril, and she is the creator and driver of Grooovalicious Purple Princess of Peace. I got to meet Avril and Grooovalicious at the Seattle Art Car Blowout a few weeks after that first email, and I must say Grooovalicious was even more luscious than I remembered!
Grooovlicious was created in March of 2003 for a peace parade that was protesting the impending US invasion of Iraq. Many more details and art have been added over the last few years. The driver's side of the car has lots of flowers and land-based art on it, and the passenger side has ocean emblems and icons.
Shown here is a detail from the roof, which is home to many wonderful creatures!
April 2007: I just got email from Avril, letting me know that the Purple Princess of Peace blew a headgasket and has passed on to that Great Art Car Show of the Hereafter. RIP Grooovalicious! However, she has started on a new car....
LIVE Art Cars!
Here are some movies and clips of art cars in action!
You're the Duke of New York... you're A-number-one!
One of the favorite inspirations shared by art car lovers is the care belonging to the Duke in the movie ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK. The Duke is the prisoner who runs the world inside the city-sized prison. And his plan is to walk everyone across the 59th St bridge to freedom with the President at the head of the parade.
His cars are some of the only gasoline vehicles in the prison and are decorated with full working chandeliers on the front ends.
Art Car Shows - Whether you have an art car to show, you if you and your camera just want to look, these are Art Car Shows organized so that those wonderful and
- ArtCar Fest
The West Coast's Largest Gathering of Art Cars! September in San Jose, CA
- Art of Burning Man: Art Cars on the Playa
Burning Man is an annual art festival and temporary community based on radical self expression and self-reliance in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada.
- Art Cars! The Minnesota ArtCar Parade
Takes place in February in Minnesota
- Fremont Fair
Seattle Art Cars holds an annual Blowout (big art car display) as part of the Fremont Fair in June. See the site for full details.
- Austinâs Annual Art Car Parade
The Austin Art Car Parade will be held on October 21, 2006. This year's parade will benefit VSA Arts of Texas, a nonprofit organization that promotes the creative power in people with disabilities by working with artists, patrons, and community membe
Does Not Compute
This is Nick's 4th art car, "Does Not Compute." I met Nick recently at an Earth Day gathering near Fresno, CA. His car got that name as he presently lives in Silicon Valley and because the majority of the people who talk to him about his car don't comprehend that all the computer and glowing blue neon is non-functional art stuff that Nick installed inside his car. They either think it really "works" somehow, or they ask if they'll find the same type of stuff if they cut holes in the bodies of their cars. Nick thinks it's both funny and sort of sad how little the average person really understands about their cars.
His favorite detail about "Does Not Compute" is that it's got a "flux capacitor" like the car from the "Back To The Future" movies inside it.
He used to own a Rat Mobile, but it didn't like the diesel gas in CA, so he had to sell it to someone who lived in OR, where he used to live, and apparently where the Rat Mobile strangely liked the gas.
Update: as of the summer of 2006, Does Not Compute has been converted to be more environmental. I can't remember if it now runs on bio-diesel or if it's entirely electric, but I'm trying to find out.