Recently, while traveling for work, something caught my eye sitting off a driveway of an Indiana farm off Route 101. It was an old Corvair, now a relic of the automotive industry but, in my youth, an innovative and popular model brought to us by Chevrolet. It was a car my father simply couldn’t resist after the body type changed from the boxier model of the early ‘60s to the sportier Monza of 1967, perfect timing for this new driver.
Ours was an aquamarine convertible with a white ragtop and matching white interior, and, while certainly not fast, that baby allowed me to make quite a statement making that cruising loop through the ghosts-of-the-past parking lots of Red Barn, Spykers and Kingburger.
So, of course, I always smile whenever I see one of these automotive dinosaurs, but this time the smile graduated to a chuckle. A split second after my peripheral picked up the car, I abruptly pulled off for a closer look. I saw two figures in the front seat of the car, stationery figures not possessing either flesh nor blood, rather a couple of mannequins of the female type, sporting stylish lids. Risking a trespassing rap, I got out of the car, approached and snapped a cell photo of Thelma and Louise side by side in the bucket seats.
As I drove away still chuckling, I imagined the conversation between husband and wife that may have occurred as to what to do about that Corvair once it ceased to be a mode of transportation.
When it no longer had a utilitarian purpose and was pushed off the drive angled so that the front trunk faced the highway at an angle and a large cornfield loomed behind the rear engine, I imagined the Mr. and Mrs. conspiring as to what to do to make it look less like what it was, an eyesore. By adding those gals, I’m thinking they may have just created a piece of art.
In case you’re wondering how such a thought may have occurred to me, I’ll simply say that when you drive the kind of miles I drive, there’s plenty of time to construct such hypotheticals.
Now, as to the potential for what I just saw to be seen as art, I began thinking of other sights I’ve seen on my travels that were supposed to be artistic. In downtown metro areas, there are some pretty odd sculptures that some may not see as worthy of an artistic designation. Take, for instance, that 30-foot tall eyeball, the creation of multimedia artist Tony Tasset, that can be found on Main Street in downtown Dallas.
On one of Lady Jane and my fall sojourns, we were in St. John, New Brunswick, visiting our neighbors to the north and while exploring the downtown area, we saw a set of 11 life-size figures made of wood showing folks in a variety of poses.
Two guys chatted on a motorcycle next to a lady. There was a women sitting on a bench with hands folded while, who we assumed to be her child, peered over her shoulder. Another figure, an elderly man, was nearby feeding a pigeon. English born Canadian sculptor John Hooper is the creator of the piece he entitled, “People in Waiting.”
Both of us found the figures to be pretty compelling, and we studied them quite closely, and we, therefore, bestowed upon our wooden friends an artistic designation.
As for what I’ve seen as questionable stabs at art encountered on my journeys, on my European travels, in cities like Munich, Vienna and Prague, all those street folks I saw that assumed stationary positions after prepping before leaving their houses that morning by spray-painting themselves solid gold or silver anticipating tips for their statue-like poses, that would be for me an artistic thumbs down.
The same would apply for me for the live people in art exhibits I saw while chaperoning a school trip during my teaching days at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I sort of have a rule when it comes to my art. It has to have permanence. If part of what I’m supposed to view as art can go home at the end of the day and watch a “Law and Order,” which I believe is on every hour of every day on some channel, then that fails the artistic test!
The lack-of-permanence thing also makes me take artsy points off for the elaborate sand castles I saw on a Hilton Head beach once upon a time. I saw one young man with a large tool box filled with mini rakes, shovels, trowels and a level, in other words, more tools that I currently can lay my hands on in my entire crib. He sweated all afternoon putting something together that wouldn’t survive the next high tide.
For the same reason, I immediately discounted the chalk “artists” I saw drawing their elaborate visuals on a blocked-off portion of an Italian street in Florence. What they created would last only until the next rainfall.
So, getting back to Thelma and Louise, I’m going to give them my official designation of art. I’ve driven by them enough times to know they’re permanent and, of course, the added touch of that Corvair, well, that’s just a little added automotive icing on my artistic cake!
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.