The story, according to Ray Schwartz and his wife, Beth, is that the car drives like a dream but after a couple of accidents, one involving a NJ Transit bus, it was dented and bland. They offered it to Uta Brauser, founder and proprietress of the oft-beleaguered Creative Grove as an art project.
Throughout the year, Uta has taken refrigerators and used them as canvasses, inviting people to paint whatever, sort of taking graffiti and street art, and the general inclination of visual spontaneity into a public space. Ray & Ben decided why not do something similar to the family vehicle. It doesn’t look that great to begin with, they said, why not turn the beat up automobile into art instead?
So, on the last Creative Grove before the Christmas Sales season is in full swing, the public art project of Paint the Car was held.
I was reminded of those contests where people take turns destroying a car, hammering it with a sledge hammer, or they win prizes, often the car, when people keep their hands on a car and whoever can keep it on for the longest is the winner.
This was about endurance, it was just about passing inspiration. I went early in the event, saw the first squiggly line effacing the freshly washed paint job. Came about back an hour later. More artists were working. Everyone was strangely solemn, not in a overly serious or sad way; but they didn’t want to just create meaningless lines. There was a focus and intention by each person who picked up a brush.
The project was open to everyone, but it seemed most of the folks not only had some talent, but wanted to apply a worthwhile image, no matter how simple or fleeting. A visual idea had formed in their minds and they wanted to express that idea as accurately as possible given the spontaneous nature of the event and the imperfect canvas of an automobile. The process of paint expressing barely deliberated thought was fascinating to watch.
Art argues against conformity. What is more conformist than a solid color car, so bound by design and traffic laws, Paint the Car was a fun art event, but maybe it spoke to an inner desire many of us share. Why must all cars look the same mono-color? Why can’t a car be as unique as its driver?