Category Archives: Art

Art at Meow Wolf

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This is what the outside of Meow Wolf looks like. Even the exterior of the building is art.

I’ve already written two posts about my recent visit to Meow Wolf, one a general review and one about buying a piece of art from the Art-o-mat® in the lobby. Yet, I still have a lot of photos I haven’t shared.

What’s weird is that while I felt as if I took a lot of photos while in the House of Eternal Return exhibit, when I look through my photos, I realize there were so many photo opportunities that I missed. I was trying to experience the experience and not live behind my camera, but it seems like I left out so much.

Of course, it would be difficult to adequately explain Meow Wolf to you even if I had carefully photographed every single different thing I saw. (Such a task would take a very long time.) There’s so much going on in the place. There are not only objects and paintings to look at, but there’s music happening and ever-changing lights. Some of the lights and music change because of something someone touches. In some places one can play music by touching lights. Almost every aspect of the House of Eternal Return is a multisensory extravaganza.

The only way to even begin to understand Meow Wolf is to make your own visit. Actually, there may be no way to understand Meow Wolf completely. But I certainly can’t explain it to you.

One of the most fascinating aspects of Meow Wolf for me is that those people have an entire bus in there! Is it a reference to Ken Kesey’s bus Furthur? Are the Meow Wolf artists on the bus or off the bus? Did I mention the bus is vertical, with its engine and front wheels in the air? We first encountered the bus on the ground floor. I was beyond pleased when we went upstairs and found the front half of it sticking up through the floor.

But is it art? Who cares? It’s an entire bus (or most of an entire bus…I couldn’t tell if it was all there) inside a building sticking up through the floor. What is there not to love?

Here area few more random things I saw during my visit to Meow Wolf.

Even the long hallway between the ticket counter and the restrooms was full of art. The whole place was about art and life and thought and coolness.

When I go back to Meow Wolf, and I do plan to go back, I will take more photos.

I’m doing something a little different today. Maybe you noticed. I’m using galleries for the first time so I can share many photos at once with you. If you click on the smaller photos, they’ll enlarge so you can see the better. I’d love to know what you think about this format. Tell me what you think in the comments.

I took the photos in this post unless otherwise noted. The low light in the exhibit made for substandard image quality. My apologies.

Art-o-mat at Meow Wolf

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This is one of the postcards I bought in the Meow Wolf gift shop.

After a little more than two hours in Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe, NM, The Man and I thought we had seen all there was to see. (Spoiler alert: We didn’t. The Man saw a photo of a ship on a magnet in the gift shop and realized we hadn’t laid eyes on the actual structure. We had no idea how to get to the ship at the time, so we decided we were ready to leave. We think we know how to find the ship now, which is one of the reasons we want to go back.)

Anyway, we were on our way to the Meow Wolf gift shop so I could pick up a couple of postcards (and two is all I bought since they cost $1 each), when I saw it: the Art-o-mat®.

The Art-o-mat® in the Meow Wolf lobby. Isn’t it lovely? I think the color scheme is fantastic! And that sugar skull…swoon!

I’d heard of Art-o-mat® machines, although the term for them in my brain was “art vending machine.” I’d maybe even seen one, somewhere, but I’d never bought art from one before. I figured if there was ever a time and place for buying art from a vending machine, that time and place was now, in the lobby of one of the greatest art spaces I had ever experienced.

What exactly is an Art-o-mat®, you may ask? According to the Art-o-mat® website,

Art-o-mat® machines are retired cigarette vending machines that have been converted to vend art. There are over 100 active machines in various locations throughout the country.

The site’s About page says,

The inspiration for Art-o-mat® came to artist Clark Whittington while observing a friend who had a Pavlovian reaction to the crinkle of cellophane…

In June 1997, Clark was set to have a solo art show at a local cafe, Penny Universitie in Winston-Salem, N.C. He used a recently-banned cigarette machine to create the first Art-o-mat®…The machine sold Clark’s black & white photographs mounted on blocks for $1.00 each…

AIC [Artists in Cellophane] is the sponsoring organization of Art-o-mat®. The mission of AIC is to encourage art consumption by combining the worlds of art and commerce in an innovative form. AIC believes that art should be progressive, yet personal and approachable…

My fortune as given to me by Alva, a robotic soothsayer from Portals Bermuda.

Do you have a $5 bill, I asked The Man. I’d broken my fiver to buy a pair of Meow Wolf chromadepth glasses (a waste of $1, as far as The Man and I were concerned) and spent another buck to have my fortune told by Alva, a robotic soothsayer from Portals Bermuda stationed in a glass cube in the arcade. I was now $2 short of buying a small piece of art from the Art-o-mat®.

Alva the soothsayer from Portals Bermuda

The Man pulled out his wallet, rummaged through it, and produced a $5 bill. Yes! Now we could choose which knob to pull.

Oh! What a decision! We had twenty choices after all! Twenty. Choices.

The top row had the name of a specific artist above each knob. Of course, I didn’t recognize any of the names. There was even information about what kind of art would be dispensed above some of the knobs. Did I want a leather key ring? Did I want matchbox art? I was overcome by choices.

On the second row, each knob was labeled “Random Art.” Maybe I would be better off if I let the Universe decide what piece of art I needed. Of course, there were still ten “Random Art” choices. I managed to narrow my choices down to two.

I narrowed my random art choices down to these two.

Should I go with creating a rainbow by buying art? (Note: I knew that buying art doesn’t really create rainbows even before I read the disclaimer.) Should a take a chance on an unknown artist? Although I’m not much of a gambler, I decided to go with taking a chance.

The Man fed the money into the bill acceptor of the sort one uses to get change at a car wash or laundromat. Now was my moment to pull the knob.

The aforementioned Art-o-mat® website answers the question What do you get? [from the dispenser] this way:

The experience of pulling the knob alone is quite a thrill, but you also walk away with an original work of art. What an easy way to become an art collector.

Pulling the knob was a thrill. Those old machines were built to be sturdy, so I had to give it a strong tug. I was rewarded with a hearty thunk! when the art fell into the tray at the bottom of the dispenser. I reached in and grabbed something the approximate size and shape of a package of cigarettes, although this item was heavier than the packs of cigarettes I’ve held. I thought the art would come in an old cigarette box, but instead it was wrapped in paper to keep it from getting scratched. I peeled off the paper and found a small painting (or maybe the image was created with markers) on a block of wood.

This is the art I received when I took a chance.

I’m not sure what exactly is depicted here. Like all good art, it leaves the viewer with some questions. Is that the sun in the upper left? Is that water on the bottom? Is it a lake? An ocean? Why is it jagged? What’s in the space between the sun and the water? The middle space looks really hot. Is it hell? Phoenix in July? What does it all mean?

This is the artist’s signature on the side of the little art piece. I took a chance on you, Jack. Thanks for this beauty.

You can answer those questions for yourself. You can ask more questions if you like. As for me, I appreciate this piece of art and its randomness and mystery. Most of all, I enjoyed the experience of buying art from a vending machine.

I took the photos in this post.

Meow Wolf: A Review

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Why is the Meow Wolf sign shaped like a bowling pin? Keep reading to find out.

The Man and I finally visited Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, NM, and we had an awesome time. I want to tell you all about it, but please know that my words and photographs simply cannot do the place justice.

Actually, even if I could tell you all about Meow Wolf and show you all of my photos, I probably shouldn’t. Part of the fun for me was going in fresh, not really knowing what to expect. Before I went, I purposefully avoided doing a lot of research on the place. I wanted to experience what was there without a lot of foreknowledge.

I did know a little bit about Meow Wolf before I went, and I will share some information with you.

According to the Meow Wolf “About” page,

Meow Wolf is an arts and entertainment group based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. [The group was] established in 2008 as an art collective.

One painting inside Meow Wolf. It reminds me of art by my favorite surrealist artist, Remedios Varo. That bird does not look happy to be held by that orange and yellow avocado with arms.

The aforementioned webpage says,

Meow Wolf is comprised of over 400 employees creating and supporting art across a variety of media, including architecture, sculpture, painting, photography, video production, cross-reality (AR/VR/MR), music, audio engineering, narrative writing, costuming, performance, and more!

Our first permanent installation, the THEA Award-winning House of Eternal Return, launched in March 2016 with support from Game of Thrones creator, George R.R. Martin.

Also, Meow Wolf is housed inside an old bowling alley! According to the Meow Wolf FAQs, the bowling alley closed in 2008 and sat empty for several years. There is no bowling there now and the lanes have been stripped out.

Is this a Meow Wolf?

While reading those FAQs to learn more about the old bowling alley, I learned how Meow Wolf got its name.

At the very first meeting of the collective in 2008, everyone put two words into a hat. Then they picked two random words out of the hat and got “Meow Wolf.”

There are some things you should know about Meow Wolf Santa Fe before you go. It is located at 1352 Rufina Circle, just off Cerrillos Road. Regular hours of operation are Sunday through Thursday from 10am to 8pm and Friday and Saturday from 10am to 10pm. Meow Wolf is closed on Tuesdays. Check holiday closures here.

The parking lot at Meow Wolf is rather small, but parking is also available on nearby streets. The Man and I visited at noon on a Sunday and had to park about two blocks away. The parking lot is not available to RVs, trailers, or other oversized vehicles; such vehicles must be parked on the street. Vandwellers traveling with companion animals should note that animal control may be called if animals are left unattended in vehicles in the Meow Wolf parking lot. Vandwellers should also note that overnight parking is not allowed in the lot.

The Man is trying to decide if he wants to walk through that door.

Strollers, backpacks and oversized bags are not allowed in the exhibit, but the items can be securely stored for you for a small fee. Stroller/walker/wheel chair storage is complementary.

An important concern for many people is the accessibility of Meow Wolf. This is what the FAQ page has to say about accessibility:

[T]he first floor of our exhibition is ADA accessible and navigable by crutches, walkers, wheelchairs or scooters, but some areas may require additional navigational guidance from our docent staff (they are here to help!). There is almost always more than one way to access to an area…We do not have elevators…to the second floor, though, and the second floor is much more difficult to navigate as well (more single steps up/down and narrow passageways). Areas with flashing lights are located behind clearly labeled doors. You do not need to coordinate ADA accommodations with staff prior to your arrival – just know that we are here to help however we can.

Also note that there are many places throughout the exhibit to sit and rest. From cushions on the floor to sofas and chairs, you do not have to be on your feet for hours on end. There are also several points where it is possible to exit to the lobby so you can visit the restroom, get a snack or beverage at Float Cafe & Bar, browse in the gift shop, or quietly create art in the David Loughridge Learning Center. You can decide to go back into the thick of things as long as you haven’t left the building.

So many pretty lights…and music too.

If you’re concerned about getting overstimulated at Meow Wolf (and this is a distinct possibility for many folks), consider picking up a sensory bag at the front desk. What is a sensory bag? The FAQ page says

[s]ensory bags are a tool guests can utilize to aid in their experience inside House of Eternal Return. Each bag can be checked out upon arrival and has items inside to help ground and re-center folks who might feel overstimulated or overwhelmed while inside the exhibit.

Looks like somebody puked up filthy lucre and glitter.

Admission to Meow Wolf is what I consider pricey. The regular adult admission price is $30. The regular admission price for a child over the age of four is $20. Children ages four and under enjoy free admission! (Anyone under 14 needs to be accompanied and supervised by a guardian over 18 years old.) Students, seniors 65 and older, and members of the military pay $25 to get in.

If you’re a New Mexico resident, you’re in luck because you get a discount. Cost of admission for adult residents of New Mexico is $25. Children who are residents of New Mexico pay only $15, and the student/senior/military rate for New Mexico residents is $20. However, every Monday and Wednesday night (4-8 PM) and Second Sunday of the month New Mexico residents pay only half off the New Mexico resident admission rate.

While I typically enjoy activities that are free and cheap, I recognize that my admission fee is helping to pay artists and maintain the Meow Wolf facilities. I can tell you that every aspect of Meow Wolf from the restrooms to the tree houses to the cushions on the floor were clean and in perfect working order.

I don’t know who these little creatures are, but I love them.

I was also pleasantly surprised that I did not encounter a single person behaving in an obnoxious way. Although there were lots of people at Meow Wolf the day we visited, people were being respectful of one another. Children were having a good time, but no one was screaming or running or annoying strangers. Adults were well-behaved too, and not once did the word asshat run through my mind.

If you haven’t already figured it out, there’s a lot going on at Meow Wolf House of Eternal Return. There is an actual, full-size house, complete with portals (hint: there are five) to other dimensions. (And here’s another hint for you: start with the house. You can start in the other dimensions, but for your first time, I HIGHLY recommend you start with the house.)

There’s a wrinkle in the reality of the bathroom floor.

You will see people stepping into and out of household appliances; you can step through some of them too, if you wish. There’s a mystery you can try to solve as you move through the house. (I’m not sure if it’s possible to solve the mystery or if it is meant to remain unsolved, but look for the clues and decide for yourself.) You can open cabinets in the kitchen and find wondrous things. You can sit in the bathtub or on the toilet of the wavy-floored bathroom. You can look into the cookie jar and see what awaits you there.

A fantasy world awaits you when you step through the refrigerator portal.

Once you move through the portals, you enter fantasy worlds filled with art and music and soft lights and magic. Well, maybe not magic; maybe what you experience is technology cleverly disguised to seem like magic. Even if you’ve never dabbled in psychedelics, you will know you’re in a the midst of some trippy shit.

There’s an entire bus in there and a dinner you wouldn’t want to eat even if you could. There are beams of red light you can play like harp strings (or drums), giant birds, and a multitude of items that will make you wonder WTF? Is it art? you may ask yourself. Does it really matter? It’s beauty and fun and color and experimentation and the chance for childlike wonder.

When we left Meow Wolf (after realizing we’d missed an entire reality but too tired to figure out how to get to it), The Man said he’d enjoyed himself but didn’t really feel the need to ever go back. But the next day, we were still talking about our experiences in the House of Eternal Return, and we both admitted we were excited to explore the place again. (Maybe it’s called the House of Eternal Return because so many visitors want to go back.)

The Man took this photo of me photographing a tiny portal in the bathroom medicine cabinet.

I can’t speak for other people who’ve been there, but The Man and I are saving our pennies so we can visit Meow Wolf again.

I took the photos in this post, except for the very last one. The low light in most of the exhibits and the camera on my cheap phone made for substandard photographs. My apologies.

Nevada Day 2019

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Today is Nevada Day. If you don’t know the first thing about Nevada Day, see the post I wrote about the holiday last year.

Sign reads "Nevada Car David Best with Patrick Dailey Bisbee, AZ."

To celebrate Nevada Day, today I will share with you photos I took of Nevada Car at spark! Mesa’s Festival of Creativity that I attended with Nolagirl in the spring of 2018. Interestingly, Nevada Car hails from Bisbee, AZ. The Art Car Agency website says the art was created by David Best and is owned by Patrick Dailey.

It turns out that David Best is a big deal when it comes to art cars. In the 2015 article “David Best: the Man Who Builds Art – and Burns It” author Geoff Dyer writes that Best got into doing art cars

in the early 1980s, in Houston, right at the beginning of the art-car craze but – in a way that is typical – is careful to emphasize that he was just one of a number of people involved at the time, that the first art car was actually done by Jackie Harris.

Here’s a front view of Nevada Car.

Art car covered with beads and poker chips and all manner of things. No surface is left uncovered.

It was really difficult to get a photo of the full view of this car with my camera. In my opinion that’s actually ok because the beauty is in the details.

An old gaming device and a million other little things decorate an art car.

Here’s some sort of gaming device attached to the car. In the same photo I see about a hundred tiny white buttons, a plastic sea turtle, a stack of smaller-than-life traffic cones that were maybe once bright orange but are now faded and dingy, a toy baseball batter, a combination lock, and a dozen rusty bottle caps. What do you see that I’m missing?

In this photo it looks like a dozen gumball machines and a kindergarten class worth of Happy Meals upchucked onto a relatively small area of the car. All of these crappy plastic toys merge into such a cohesive whole that it’s hard to pick out individual objects. Look! There’s Buzz Lightyear! To the right, a dozen plastic crabs! I see a leg! I see a lion! I see creatures I can’t identify.

In an article on the KQED Spark website, Best’s process is described like this:

… Best strips vehicles down to the core before reconstructing them, striving to make the car’s original form unrecognizable. Rather than merely gluing objects to the body of a car, Best, who religiously goes to the dump, likes to use found object materials that ultimately take on their own personality. After making 30 art cars and 2 buses, Best has worked with over 10,000 people.

Discarded objects including a visible man, a toy baseball batter, and small traffic cones decorate an art car.

It’s easy for me to imagine an artist finding these items at the dump and being delighted to add them to an art car work in progress.

I’m not sure why this is piece is called Nevada Car. Because of the gaming devices? Because of the gaming device that says “Nevada Club”? I wish this exhibit of art cars had included statements from the artists.

Saints stand next to an old gaming machine.

I like the juxtaposition of the statues of saints next to this old gaming device. Is it a commentary on praying for luck? An observation of the degree to which our society treats money as divine? A mere putting-together of objects in a way that looked pleasing to the artist’s eye?

I found my favorite feature of Nevada Car, and it didn’t have much to do with Nevada. I’m not talking about the BMW emblem either.

Photographer is reflected in chrome. Face is blocked with camera. A BMW emblem and a red Grateful Dead dancing bear feature prominently.

I’ll leave you with a wish for a Happy Nevada day and a self portrait with dancing bear in chrome.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also want to read about the J Gurl and Zalafayra art cars and the art vans California Fantasy Van  and Camera Van that were also at the spark! Festival.

I took the photos in this post.

World Photography Day

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Today is World Photography Day! According to an article from The Economic Times,


World Photography Day…aims to inspire photographers across the planet to share a single photo with a simple purpose: to share their world with the world.

Unfortunately, at the time I’m writing this post (on Christmas Day 2018) I can’t figure out where we are supposed to share our single photo today. The World Photo Day Facebook page hasn’t been updated since August 2017, and when I go to the Wold Photo Day website, I get an Error 521 message (“web server is down”). Maybe by the time this post actually runs in August of 2019, there will be updated information out in the world.

In the meantime, I want to share photos today of two of my favorite things: cameras and vans!

Yep, it’s the Camera Van!

Van is entirely covered in cameras!
Camera Van’s website says, “Before the first camera was glued to the van in 1993, fellow car artist Ron Dolce [said]…’you can’t just glue a bunch of cameras on a van and call it art…You have to paint with the cameras.’ The result? A perfect, blow up-replica of a kodak [sic] instamatic [sic] on the camera [sic] Van’s driver’s side comprised entirely of Kodak instamatics [sic].”

Nolagirl and I encountered Camera Van at spark! Mesa’s Festival of Creativity which we attended in the spring of 2018. There were a lot of art cars there and a few art vans too, including Camera Van.

Front view of the Camera Van, entirely covered in cameras.
The Camera Van website says, “The Camera Van’s front grill features every polaroid [sic] camera ever made, from the Land Camera to the popular “One-Step” to The Swinger.”

Camera Van was created by Harrod Blank. According to Camera Van’s very own website, it is


the world’s most unique rolling photographic studio, truly the world’s ONLY van carpeted wall-to-wall in cameras and rigged to catch the candid expressions of people everywhere.

According to the Tucson.com article “World’s Funkiest Cars Find a Home in Douglas” by Luis F. Carrasco, Camera Van is Blank’s second art car, which he started working on in 1993. The van is

…covered with more than 2,000 cameras and assorted photography paraphernalia. It took him two years to complete.

Detail of the passenger side of the Camera Van.
The Camera Van website says of the passenger side, “…a representation of the human eye glows and gazes outward in color lens filter, flashcubes and mirrored glass.

Harrod Blank is also the creator of the Art Car World museum in Douglas, AZ. According the the musem’s website, Art Car World is


[a] museum dedicated entirely to the celebration and preservation of this popular mobile art form…located in historic downtown Douglas, Arizona. Currently under construction, Art Car World will feature a permanent collection of 42 popular Art Cars with more on rotating exhibition.

Art Car World is located at 450 E 8th Street in Douglas, AZ and is open by appointment only. You can contact the museum to schedule a visit or to get more information via email at excentrix@aol.com or by sending a letter to the street address given above.

The back of the Art Van is full of cameras.
There are more cameras on the back of the Camera Van!

Be sure to visit the Camera Van website to see the surprise on the vehicle’s roof.

If you like, take some photos today. Share them on Facebook or Instagram or go old school and have prints made. However you do it, use photography to share your world with the world.


If you enjoyed this post, you may also want to read about another art van called California Fantasy Van  and an art car called J Gurl that were also at the spark! Festival.

I took all the photos in this post.

Friendly by Nature Little Free Library in Phoenix, AZ

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The Friendly by Nature Little Free Library. The top and side are mosaics.

My favorite Little Free Library (LFL) Nolagirl and I visited during our Phoenix Little Free Library excursion was the second one we went to. This one has the name “Friendly by Nature,” and the charter number is 5974. This registered LFL is decorated with beautiful, colorful mosaics and sits at the front of a yard decorated with more mosaics.

If you don’t yet know about the gift economy of the Little Free Library movement, here are a few things you should know. According to the Little Free Library organization’s FAQs

Little Free Library is a registered nonprofit organization that inspires a love of reading, builds community, and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world.

The left side of the Friendly by Nature Little Free Library shows a saguaro cactus and a hot hot sun.

As soon as Nolagirl parked in front of the house this LFL belongs to, I was attracted to the library’s bright colors. I was really excited when I got out of the vehicle and moved closer to the library and discovered the brightly colored scenes were composed from irregular tiles. WOW! I also greatly appreciated the desert scenes featured on this LFL. Pictured on the LFL are a saguaro cactus, the hot midday sun, and the starry night visible when one leaves the city behind. Beneath the moonlight, there is a row of books, much like those found in the actual Little Free Library.

The other side of the Friendly by Nature Little Free Library shows the desert night and a row of books ready for reading.

The outside of the Little Free Library was not the only thing on the property sporting bright mosaics. Several round poles just beyond the LFL were also decorated with colorful tiles. I didn’t want to infringe upon the privacy of the steward of the little library, but I did snap a few photos of other pieces of mosaic art.

I was so impressed with the artistic work that I wrote out a quick note expressing my appreciation. I left the note tucked in the LFL. I think it’s really important to tell people when we like their work. I know from experience that artists often don’t get enough positive feedback, so I like to rectify that situation when I can.

This mosaic is visible without going too far onto the property of the Little Free Library’s steward. I love that the lady’s nose is made from what appears to be a cup handle.

I left my email address on the note, and several days later I was pleased to find a message from the artist in my inbox. She wrote,

Thank you for the postcard regarding my Little Free Library and my other mosaics. I retired from Intel about three years ago and started making mosaics.  I have done many commissions.

My adobe house, courtyard and casita are my inspiration!

The artist then invited me to come over and see more of her mosaics! Wow! I was so flattered. Unfortunately, I already had plans for all of my days in Phoenix and I was unable to visit the artist and see more of her work. So disappointing! I’ve dropped the ball during my subsequent visits to Phoenix and never made plans to go over to this gracious woman’s house. My bad. Maybe someday I can still pay her a visit. I sure hope so because I want to see more of these splendid mosaics!

The sun shines above it all.

Two Horses

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Two bronze horses stand facing in opposite directions. The texture of the sculpture is irregular, as if the bronze is thickly applied.
Two Horses by William Barnhart

It’s difficult to adequately capture the sculpture Two Horses in one photograph because the piece has many angles to explore. I’d taken one shot of it (the photo above) during my visit to downtown Mesa in the spring of 2016, but I never thought this photo was enough. During my exploration of a few blocks of downtown Mesa with Nolagirl in March of 2018, I was able to get a few more shots.

Close up of the face of a bronze horse. The texture is irregular, as if the bronze is dripping.
This bronze horse has quite an expression on its face.

Two Horses was created by artist William Barnhart. According to Barnhart’s website, he received a BFA from Brigham Young University in 1984 and continued with graduate studies at Arizona State University in 1985. He is a resident of Mesa and has been a professional artist for over 30 years.

You can see more of William Barnhart’s sculptures on his webpage, which shows both sculptures in a pre-cast state and those that have been cast in bronze.

I love the texture of this piece, which begs to be touched. The plaque on the base of this piece explains how Barnhart made the horses look this way.

The sculpture’s unique surface was created by layering wet plaster over modeled forms of two horses, then allowing the plaster to run and drip. The effect is a texture with a random, organic appearance over a highly controlled form. Subsequent processes were used to transform the sculpture into its final bronze state.

One bronze horse turns its head to the right. The other horse is turned away from the viewer. We see its tail. The surface of the sculpture is irregular as if the bronze is thickly dripping.
A different view of the two.

Two Horses can be viewed on the southwest corner of Main and Center Streets in downtown Mesa, AZ. You can find this piece of public art and many others on the guide to Downtown Mesa’s Permanent Sculpture Collection.

Two bronze horses on the corner of a city street. The bronze is irregular as if it is dripping from the statues.

I took all the photos in this post.

Bohemian Rhapsody Art Car

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Nolagirl and I were at spark! Mesa’s Festival of Creativity in the spring of 2018, looking at art cars. We’d looked at California Fantasy Van, the J Gurl art car, and Zalafayra. Next up: Bohemian Rhapsody.

As you might have guessed, this car is a tribute to the rock band Queen. The art was done by Rebecca Bass and her students at Reagan High School (now known as Heights High School ) in Houston, Texas. This high school is so cool, it has an art car club on its official list of activities available to students!

Art car covered in bling with a life-size representation of Freddie Mercury holding the Union Jack flag.
Freddie Mercury lets his freak flag fly. Oh wait! That’s the Union Jack!

According to an ABC 13 Eyewitness News website (which features a video of Bass and her students creating an art car),

Rebecca Bass is famous in the Art Car community. She’s created about 30 art cars in her lifetime, almost all of them with kids.

Bass leads the art car club at Heights High School. She and her students were even in a movie! The 2011 documentary Art Car: The Movie follows Bass and her students as they prepare a car for the Houston Art Car Parade.

A keyboard projects from the back passenger side door of a meticulously decorated art car.
That’s a full size keyboard on the side of that car!

The city of Houston calls the Art Car Parade the city’s

largest free public event [with] more than 250 rolling works of art …

A fake woman projects from the torso up from a meticulously decorated art car.
I think this woman is holding bicycle handlebars. Perhaps she represents the Queen song “Bicycle Race.” That song was really popular during my childhood. “I want to ride my bicycle/I want to ride my bike!” I didn’t realized until I was writing this post that there’s an official video for the song and it features naked women!

I think it’s really cool that high school students did the majority of the work on this car. While I do like Queen, I wouldn’t call myself a huge fan of the band. What I am a huge fan of is the meticulous embellishment work done on Bohemian Rhapsody. Wow! So much bling! I don’t think there’s one inch of space on this car that’s not covered in shine, sparkle, or flash. This is my kind of three-dimensional collage.

A red guitar is attached to the driver's door of a meticulously embellished art car.
There’s a guitar to go with the keyboard. The band is almost complete.

Bohemian Rhapsody seems to have found a permanent home with ArtoCade out of Trinidad, Coloroado. The ArtoCade website calls itself

a parade!…a festival!…a party!

Art car meticulously embellished with bling.
Bohemian Rhapsody seems to belong to ArtoCade out of Trinidad, CO.

ArtoCade also has an art car museum. The information was a bit unclear, but from what I could ascertain, the museum once known as the Bizarre Car Garage had to vacate its space prior to September 2018. It seems to have relocated and been rechristened as Art Cartopia. I think admission to Art Cartopia is free. That’s my favorite price! (The information I found about Art Cartopia was on ArtoCade’s Facebook page.)

Bohemian Rhapsody detail. “Somebody to Love,” perhaps?

If you’re ever anywhere near Trinidad (a small town just off Interstate 25 near the Colorado/New Mexico border), I suggest you stop at Art Cartopia and take a look at Bohemian Rhapsody. There are so many details to look at on this car! I could have stared at it for hours.

Figures of a drummer and a woman with an ample bottom adorn the back of a meticulously embellished art car.
I’m pretty sure that’s a fat bottomed girl on the left. And look! There’s the drummer Roger Taylor on the right!

I took all the photos in this post.

Zalafayra

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An area on car above tire spelled out in bright yellow "#Zalafayra." Car is decorated with green moss and many tiny little things.

I wasn’t able to find out much about the art car Zalafayra.

Nolagirl and I saw the car at spark! Mesa’s Festival of Creativity in the spring of 2018. Either there was no sign with the car or I didn’t take a photo of it, so I came into this post not knowing the name of the artist. I had to play detective to get some info to share with my readers.

Front view of an art car covered with moss and coins and antlers and all sorts of little things.
Plastic carrots, money, moss, and antlers, plus other odds and ends.

When a Google search of “Zalafayra” turned up nothing, I turned to Instagram. A search of “#zalafayra” brought me to a video belonging to Scot Campbell (@scotcampbellwindowpainter). In the video, a man identifies himself as Rick McKinney of Marin County, CA and says Zalafayra is his car.

A small statue of a male saint decorates an art car. Bits of broken mirrored glass and painted on orange and yellow flames surround him.
A holy man (Jesus? a saint?) is surrounded by shards of mirrored glass, orange and yellow flames, live moss, and bullet casings. This must be a religious experience.

In the video, Rick McKinney says he likes to “let people make up their own mind about what” the car is “all about.” He points out that he used “live moss, antlers, a bunch of religious figures” on the car. He said he was working with the theme of faith when he embellished the car, and the items on it represent things people put their faith in.

Some people put their faith in money. Some people put their faith in themselves; that’s the mirror…Some people in nature…time, Jesus, Buddha, you name it.

A small statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary is surrounded by matchbox cars, moss, and other odds and ends.
There’s a lot going on around the Virgin Mary, and I love it. Matchbox cars, a
menorah, Minnie Mouse, a couple of crosses, a tiny dinosaur. How is it all related? It was all related in the artist’s head, and that’s good enough for me.

With additional detective work, I found out a bit more about Rick McKinney on The Lighthouse Peddler website. The man’s not just a visual artist, but a poet as well! (You can read his poetry on his blog Jigglebox.com.)

A tiny 3D replica of The Last Supper is nestled in among the moss.
A tiny Last Supper nestled in among the moss.

In an October 2017 list of “Rick Trivia” by Blake More on the aforementioned website of The Lighthouse Peddler, we learn that Rick McKinney


“[h]as been featured on television a dozen times with his art car Duke.”

(You can see pictures of Duke on the Art Car Agency website and learn more about it on Art Cars in Cyberspace.)

I don’t know why Zalafayra was on display and not Duke. I don’t know why there’s not more information about Zalafayra out in the world. In any case, I feel really grateful to have seen this car, and I hope with this blog post, I’m doing my part to spread the word about it.

Art car is decorated with Matchbook cars, bullet casings, small plastic toys and a yellow New Mexico license plate that read "Art Car."
It’s an art car. Definitely an art car.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also want to read about the J Gurl art car and California Fantasy Van that were also at the spark! Festival.

I took all the photos in this post.

J Gurl

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Nolagirl and I were at spark! Mesa’s Festival of Creativity in the spring of 2018. We were looking at the art cars and came across one that turned out to be one of my favorites of the whole day, J Gurl by Diane Bombshelter from Tucson, AZ.

According to her website, Diane Bombshelter is primarily a painter who creates on black velvet. Apparently she’s really good at painting on cars too.

This is the big picture of what her art car looks like.

An art car is brightly painted with images of bugs and flowers. The Blessed Virgin Mary is painted on the hood.
Can you see the Blessed Virgin Mary on the hood of this art car?

When I got up close and starting looking at the details, I liked the car more and more.

Here’s the sacred heart painted on the back passenger door. I like the way pieces of broken mirror were used to accentuate the painting and add sparkle to the area. Also, the rough edges of the glass could cut the viewer, which I think brings to mind the pain caused by those thorns wrapped around the heart.

Sacred heart painted on the side of art car JGIRL.

Much of the imagery on the car is specifically female and really celebrates feminine power and energy. For example, here’s a uterus complete with egg tubes, ovaries, developing eggs, cervix, and endometrial lining painted on the rear passenger side of the car. Again, mirrors (this time round ones to echo the roundness of the eggs) catch the light and add sparkle and shimmer. Of course the pink background evokes stereotypical femininity but perhaps also a reclaiming of female strength.

Painting of uterus on the art car JGIRL. Ovaries, egg tubes, and endometrial lining also featured.

Here’s a vulva, right over the gas tank! Do you think that placement was random or a conscious choice?

Painting of a red and pink vulva on the art car JGURL.

The details that went into this representation of the vulva make me really happy. The yellow represents flames, perhaps, or bolts of energy. The red jewels outlining the border are also very sweet–more sparkle, more pizzazz. You may not be able to tell from my photo, but the clitoris is entirely composed of shiny little jewels. This vulva is a celebration of womanly parts. This vulva shines!

Art car JGURL has painting of Kwan Yin on the side. Sunlight is lighting her face and head. Glass beads radiate out from her head.

Ah, there’s Quan Yin, one of my favorite manifestations of Goddess energy. According to a Crystallinks webpage,

Quan Yin is one of the most universally beloved of deities in the Buddhist tradition. Also known as Kuan Yin, Quan’Am (Vietnam), Kannon (Japan), and Kanin (Bali), She is the embodiment of compassionate loving kindness. As the Bodhisattva of Compassion, She hears the cries of all beings…

Contemplating the Goddess of Mercy involves little dogma or ritual. The simplicity of this gentle being and Her standards tends to lead Her devotees towards becoming more compassionate and loving themselves…

Don’t you like the way I took the photo so the sunlight makes the area at the top of Goddess’ head glow? I’m pleased with that aspect of the photo, although I can’t remember if it was a conscious composition or a happy accident.

Art car JGURL has a mosaic of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the hood.
This photo courtesy of Nolagirl.

If the Blessed Virgin Mary is more your style when it comes to Goddess representation, Bombshelter has that covered for you on the hood of the car. The image of the BVM is made from flat glass marbles and is surrounded by small BVM statues. The blue flowers are artificial and permanently adhered to the hood as far as I could tell.

It’s obvious that so many loving details went into the design of this car. Even the dashboard is carefully decorated.

Dashboard of art car JGURL. Toys decorate the dashboard and the word "Goddess" is spelled out in Scrabble letters.

My favorite part of this interior decoration is the word “Goddess” spelled out in Scrabble letters. Clever!

In a 2015 article about the Art Car World museum in Douglas, AZ, Diane Bombshelter discussed pushing the boundaries of what cars are supposed to look like and represent in our society.

“Breaking that taboo opens people’s minds. It doesn’t have to be a certain way; it can be this way, too,” she said

“… I wanted to bring art to the public, instead of the public having to go to an art gallery.”

Arizona license plate on an art car. The plate number reads J-G-U-R-L.

I greatly enjoyed seeing and appreciate this art car. Hopefully I’ll see it again someday and take photos of the art on the driver side.

See Diane Bomshelter’s paintings on black velvet on her website.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also want to read about another art car called California Fantasy Van  that was also at the spark! Festival.

I took the photos in this post, except for the one attributed to Nolagirl.