Art cars are not cars with custom paint jobs, 20-inch rims and video games in the dashboard that you might see on an episode of “Pimp My Ride.” Nor are they the nostalgic vehicles you would see at a vintage car show.
For Columbus resident Greg Phelps, art cars are his passion.
“I’d like to see Art Cars all over the place,” Phelps said.
An art car is a vehicle that has had its appearance modified as an act of personal expression. The vehicle serves as the canvas for the artist’s creation, and what they decide to put on that canvas ranges from paint and stickers to toys and dolls.
For Greg Phelps it started with the “Summer Car”.
“I used to go to different summer events and let the kids decorate the car,” Phelps explains, “and at the end of the summer I would take everything off and let them start over the next summer.”
Then in 1998 Phelps met Ramona Moon, a fellow art car enthusiast from Worthington, Ohio. Moon, who was returning home from California, introduced Phelps to using glue to make the designs on his cars more permanent.
Phelps then took his 1990 Mazda Miata and started to glue toys, and whatever else the kids in the neighborhood donated to him, to the car.
“That Car #1” Is Born
“The car named itself really. I’d drive down the street and people would say, ‘hey look at that car,’” Phelps said.
“That Car #1″ later became so popular that it is now part of a permanent collection at the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, as a piece of functional art.
Phelps’ second Art Car, “That Car #2,” (seen above) is a 1999 Chevrolet Cavalier.
While there is no obvious theme behind “That Car #2,” Phelps used some sections of the car to mimic themes of other famous Art Cars from around the world. The majority of the car was still created seemingly at random using donations from children in Phelps’ Clintonville neighborhood.
Art For Daily Use
All of Phelps’ art cars have been his daily-use cars.
Phelps started creating “That Car #3” earlier this year because, like any normal car, his art cars become old and lose their functionality.
“An art car is still a car so you are limited in how long you can drive it because of high mileage and the normal wear and tear you get from driving a car,” Phelps said.
Part of the theme for “That Car #3”, a 2009 Nissan Versa, will expand on the idea Phelps started on “That Car #2.” He will again use sections of the car to pay tribute to other Art Cars from around the world.
Central-Ohio is not the only area lucky enough to see Phelps’ work. He has also driven “That Car #2” on road trips to Vermont and Manhattan.
“If you want to experience what it is like when the paparazzi are snapping pictures at you, then stop at a red light in an Art Car in Times Square,” Phelps said. “You should see all the bulbs flashing from people taking pictures… It’s a little unsettling at first but then you get used to it.”
Those interested in getting a look at Phelps “That Car #3” don’t need to stalk the streets of Columbus to see it, as Phelps’ car, along with other Art Cars, will be on display at the Hot Times Community Arts and Music Festival (website) on Sept. 9, 2011 in Columbus.
The festival is the largest Art Car gathering in Ohio with Art Cars coming from all across Ohio as well as Kansas, Texas, Arizona and Maine.
Even if you don’t make it to the festival keep an eye out for Phelps’ Art Car cruising around Columbus or parked outside his Clintonville home.
“The main reason I do it is for the fun,” Phelps said. “It takes the mundane experience of driving and it turns it into an event… The last place you expect to see art is at a red light on Monday morning on your way to work.”