ArtCar Fest

>> Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Although Bay area artists Harrod Blank and Philo Northrup have been creating artcars for several decades, in 1997 they decided to team up and host the first ever ArtCar Fest in San Francisco.
What is an artcar? "It's not a float," says Blank, who has created two movies and written a book on the subject. "We drive these cars everyday and they are extensions of our characters." Blank created his first artcar when he was seventeen, painting a rooster on the side of his '65 white VW Bug. "I just felt so plain in a regular car," he says. "It just wasn't me." His creation initiated such a response from the public that he decided to take it to the next level. With his second creation, the Camera Van, a 1972 Dodge van with 1,705 cameras attached to the surface (ten working cameras), Blank can now capture the way the public responds when he drives down the street.
About one-hundred artcars from around the nation show up every October, including Larry Fuentes' Cowasaki (a life size cow fastened to a motorcycles frame); Julian Stock's Skull Car II (a huge white cow skull built over the body of a compact car); and Northrup's own work in progress Truck in Flux ("an abstract, ever-evolving creation"). One of the highlights of the fest is the artcar the crowd creates on site. Anyone who wants can lend a helping hand. In 1998 toys of every shape and size were attached to the body of a donated car, which fetched $300 in an auction. The lucky buyer proceeded to paint it black and then called it Toys Were Us.
In 1999, Blank and Northrup experimented with the idea of taking the ArtCar Fest to the people in a traveling roadshow instead of having the public come to them. Events were held in San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, and San Jose. "It's a missionary-type thing," Blank says. "We're taking our cars through all kinds of neighborhoods in a Fellini-esque parade. All of a sudden this carnival just drives by and the audience is left thinking what the hell was that!"


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