From the Art Cars series — one man’s obsession with America's mobile masterpieces
Photographs by Harrod Blank
NEW MEXICO — When you drive an art car every day for 30-plus years you kind of forget that it’s different; it’s just your goddamn car. So when you go to buy a quart of milk one morning, feeling a bit hungover, and you come out of the store to find a very happy, emotionally-elevated crowd around your vehicle — it’s a pain in the ass, but you make their day and damn if it doesn’t make yours too.
I view art cars as an artistic protest against the materialistic, consumer-oriented society we live in. Quite simply, the automobile is a consumer product that rapidly loses value from the moment it is purchased. You, as an individual, never lose value.
The joy that it brings to people who cannot themselves “art car”, for whatever reason, is quite simply amazing. Most folks really seem to need an excuse to lighten up. I guess my car and I have become that excuse. My car means something to me, but it sure means something to a lot of other people and I never expected that. My car and I have a wonderful ability to bring a smile in the most unexpected circumstances. My car doesn’t do it; I don’t do it. But somehow together we pull that off.
In the early Nineties I had a truck called Home on the Strange that was painted the exact same colour and material as my house, stuccoed and tiled inside and out, with a living cactus garden in the bed of the truck. I was driving back from the art car parade in Houston, crossing back into New Mexico, when I found myself being trailed by a police car. Although I was driving home totally sober, I had a cooler full of beer and whisky next to me in the cab for my arrival home.
When I was pulled over, it turned out the officer — who happened to be the sheriff — had stopped me for transporting indigenous plants across state lines without a licence! He ended up escorting me 75 miles to the next county — illegal plants, alcohol and all — to make sure there was no trouble.