Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Day After Tomorrow

The title here is the title of the movie I've been watching for a couple hours. I'll play a movie over and over as I do artwork. I think it keeps me company, but now I'm not sure about that. For one thing, when the music gets all oh my god! we're all gonna die, I actually wonder what it does to the cells in my body. Do I viscerally respond to scary music? Am I causing stress even as I think I'm just having fun spreading paint around?

And what about the critters? Is Sunny now having cocker-spaniel nightmares because of the music during The Day After Tomorrow? We know Mittens is having night and daymares because she's forced to stay inside because of a mosquito-bite hyper-sensitivity. She has sentenced herself to The Hole -- under the couch -- until such time as she's able to figure out the door knob or develop opposable thumbs. Benji just wants to please everybody but refuses to go to Al-Anon.

Anyway, I don't think animals pay much attention to fake sounds. Sirens outside don't even get a glance.

Maybe later tonight I'll try music instead of a movie and see if it's the same.

The Day After Tomorrow is about global warming, about catastrophic storms everywhere, about the end of the world. It's quite satisfying, really -- like the story of Noah. It's a clean-sweep sort of movie and that feels good. I truly don't know what to do about racism or homophobia, let alone good old-fashioned sexism. I don't know how to fix pollution or correct my bad habits, of which there are many. I can't even control my temper.

But look at this -- if there's a big fat weather problem that wipes out half the population, why, then, we can start over, only this time will be different. This time we won't make the mistakes our forefathers and possibly -mothers did. I say only "possibly" for the mothers because, as far as I know, only one woman helped to make America, and she just sewed a flag.

Speaking of flags, here's a bunch of East African flags (okay, and south, too). I prefer West Africa, but you've got to admit that the East Coast has cooler flags. Well, you only have to admit it if you know what the other flags look like so, fine: I'll include them, too. I don't know how the East African flags got turned on their heads, but there they are.

But back to the apocalypse ...

When I was younger and watched such movies, I'd always wonder if I have what it takes to survive that weather or that plague or that outer-space invasion. Now that I'm middle-aged, I know I don't have it and probably never did. Now I think I'll let the young men and women start the fire while I sit in the corner, bundled up, looking wise and grey-headed. Or maybe I'll tell them, with a shaky but noble voice, to go on without me.

* * *

And now a correction from the last posting. My friend Lee, who can be shown a square inch of any vehicle ever made and tell you its make, model, year, and often, but not always, its first owner's mother's middle name, has informed me that that beautiful Honda Accord art car is actually a Honda Civic.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Celebrating Diversity

Well, I'm back from the Kentucky Art Car Weekend 2008, seventh annual, and it was checkered, indeed. If I were working here with Adobe InDesign instead of whatever generic thang Mister Google is providing, I'd offer my comments alternatively in blocks of white and of black. If frogs had wings ...

I sat at a table in The Blue Nile, an Ethiopian restaurant in Louisville, with two white-girl friends. The other patrons were men: two Indians or Pakistanis or Sri Lankans or something at one table, and six or seven Ethiopians at another. The waitress and owner were Ethiopian women. The owner saw my car outside and assumed it belonged to an African, which is the perfect compliment.

The next day, I heard The N-Word more times in a twelve-hour period than in my life altogether. I'm not exaggerating.

A car artist has an old dog, Curly, who lives with him in a cramped studio in Cincinnati. A cleaning woman in Louisville saw the dog in Michael's van and offered to take Curly out to her several-acre home where she keeps other old dogs and a couple of horses and goats and various critters. I got goosebumps when I heard her make the offer.

On the other hand -- in a black box of this checkerboard -- I saw a puppy that is probably going to die from neglect, from a complete lack of concern on the part of the reluctant owners. I haven't been back home forty-eight hours yet, but I trust that in a day or two, that whole idea will fade and will quit preying on my heart: I'll quit thinking I should have taken her with me.

I visited a cousin who says she lives in Stepford and, indeed, all the mailboxes in the development matched, by decree. Later, in a southeasterly direction, I watched young husbands pitch the debris of a long road trip onto their dad's lawn, with nary a complaint from anyone: liquor bottles, soda cans, McDonald's bags.

A couple people at the show quietly told me that my car was their favorite.

An executive walking downtown saw my car and sneered to his pal, "Pff! That hardly qualifies!"

I overheard him and let out a gasp of astonishment. My car doesn't qualify as an art car? Then he gasped because he saw I was the owner and he was embarrassed. Then I gasped again because I suddenly realized that he's correct: my car hardly does qualify. Then we both chuckled uncomfortably and the men walked on to the next car, providing relief for us all.

But it's true. My poor bien5 is hardly an art car. Sure, it's a painted car, and compared to your factory-painted car, it's pretty wild. But in Houston, where they get more than two hundred cars in their annual show, there's a category for painted cars. In the rest of the country, where thirty cars is a lot of cars, there aren't any categories, and there are very few painted cars.

This show had three. One belonged a woman who repaints her car every year. She was pressed for time this year, so she invited friends, family, strangers, to help her paint it. It's a patchwork quilt and while it's mostly paint, there are some other materials on it. It was remarkably cohesive. I'd love to be able to be open enough to have that kind of audience participation on my car, but hah!

The other painted car gets the trophy in my show. Tim McNally took his 2005 Honda Accord, put some fins on it, and painted it in a beautiful fashion. I'm not the only one who needed to stroke the car. I don't know what that's about, but once I touched it, I wanted to keep petting it. He used 1-SHOT Lettering Enamel, as did I, but I don't want to caress my car. I don't know if the photos will do it justice, but I'll include a picture of it. If Tim took that design he painted and put it on fabric or canvas or anything other thing, I'd buy it: tee-shirt, notebook cover, slippers, whatever. It's just great. That's what you see at the top of this page.

Otherwise, the average art car is loaded with stuff: toys and doll heads (a lot of doll heads), singing plastic fish, dentures, television tubes, sea shells, all manner of bells and whistles and beads and bangles, things that light up and move and play music and blow bubbles.

Perhaps I'll rename my car Plain Jane.

So now I am actually toying with the idea of not going to the show in Columbus, OH, after my class reunion. I only have about eleven days to decide, though.

Here's an idiot trying to get a photo of a street rod while driving on a major highway. She did it, but it now seems like a really stupid action ...

And here's Tim's car.