Book of Marvels
Sunday, March 04, 2007
Portland Art Cars

We drove up one rainy street and down another looking for a parking place. Then, out of the fog and mist and late-winter wistfulness, this magnificent vehicle appeared!

"Look," I shouted to my daughter, who was driving.

"It's an art car," she said, as if this were entirely commonplace. Which I guess it is, in Portland.

Now, I'm thinking of gathering an assortment of geegaws to glue onto my Subaru. I had wanted my neighbor Steve to tart up my car with some flames or wings or something-- he does that for a living, although mostly of the business logo variety. But now, my longing for car tattoos seems terribly tame.

I love both public art and folk art, and I love the way they converge in the art car. I think it's a form of public service to lavish this much attention--this much loving, idiosyncratic detail-- on something that everyone gets to enjoy. How rude, how shocking that one of Portland's finest seems to have given this art car a parking ticket (see yellow envelope at bottom left of front window). It should have been a citation for creative valor!

I confess a fondness for over-the-top Christmas displays--front yards that feature wooden nativity scenes and old plastic Santas and and wicker raindeer and lights hanging everywhere (I draw the line at those giant inflated snow-globes that are hooked up to generators and churn away night and day. Was happy to watch, from my office window, as one on the next block gradually deflated and collapsed a few months ago. People should either make or inherit their kitch.) I love outlandish Easter displays, too. Somewhere on the east side of Cleveland, there's a guy who turns his whole front yard into a picture mosaic every year using plastic eggs. I can't believe I've lived here as long as I have and not yet seen it.

Front-yard gardening is also public art-- a gift from one person to everyone who walks, bikes or drives by. I don't have the yard of my dreams yet, but people still stop on my sidewalk and tell me how much they enjoy my garden. "Just wait," I always mutter under my breath. "Wait until next year."

Now I'm imagining an art car parked in my driveway. I probably have about five square feet of clutter in this house, stuff that I can't sell or give away but can't bring myself to dump. Broken masks from Mexico, single earrings, chipped china, old political buttons, gum-machine toys, cyclops glasses...maybe all this can be fashioned into an arty swirl on my car. A modest one, though, because I don't know that I have the patience or the talent to attempt something like the bear-head car.

I could probably replicate the faux birdshit on my bumpers, though.

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They're so prehistoric looking, those art cars! There are a few in our neighborhood in Berkeley and I love the idea of someone carefully gluing stuff everywhere to create a kind of carpet of whimsy and weirdness.
I say "YES" to the art car. There's someone in Cleveland with a van painted entirely with chalkboard paint. On its back bumper there is a tray of chalk, inviting people to say their piece.
With warmer weather, are we to expect the "wicker raindeer" this weekend?

Always enjoy catching your blog and am happy that you suffer from the same "spell check" disease I have.
Yikes, Alan, you caught me letting down my type guard. Or my homophone guard. But at first I thought you were talking about "geegaws," which should, of course, be "gewgaws."

BL--"carpet of whimsy and weirdness"-- nice!

Voicegal-- love the chalkboard idea. I guess it's better than letting your car get dirty enough to support scrawling.
I meant "typo" guard, of course. There's something funny and a little unsettling about spelling the word for a spelling mistake wrong.
Great car!

I was at last night and noticed that there were several blogs from this area that I had listed on my blog that were not on their list. I found the submission email address and added yours to the list. Today I received an email that they were added. I am letting you know in case you want to be removed for some reason.
Thanks, Kristen. I'm sure there are an incredible number of blogs in the area-- impossible to keep track of all of them.
like your blog! have added it to my list. in my town there is a car with bat wings.
Ooh, I love art cars!
I saw this car again just the other day and thought of you. Yay!
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