Oh yeah...before you start reading this, do yourself a favor and start playing the song I linked to above. This is my first "audio-enhanced" piece.
I doubt anybody is going to be surprised by this...but I actually owned a custom van. She was a 1976 Ford Chateau (for real! Ford would have a hard time marketing a car named "Chateau" in these economic times) that my old band bought for a trip to New York for the CMJ festival. About 50 miles into the trip, the engine started making noises, and we found that all of the oil was leaking through a dried-up gasket. I'm a little ashamed to say that we bought a couple of cases of oil and replenished the thirsty van with about a quart of oil every hour. She never took another trip after we got her home.
I'll always remember her sweet captain's chairs and wealth of brown shag carpeting. The custom van is truly a lost art.
Sadly, my van didn't have any airbrushed Star Wars-related art on the sides, but it did have one of those sweet, slightly futuristic, stripey paintjobs.
Photographer Joe Stevens has been documenting the few, the proud custom vans that still remain on the streets of San Francisco and the East Bay for the past few years. His photographic series, Vans and the Places Where They Were, can be found online HERE. Here's what Stevens has to say about his subject:
Vans and the places where they were documents surviving custom and conversion vans across the West and examines the dialogue which exists between a van’s design aesthetic and that of its surrounding environment. The project began in 1996 and currently consists of hundreds of images shot on 120 film.
Over the course of the project the vans themselves have become more and more of a rarity. The reasons are as simple as rust and changing tastes; and as complex as government “cash for clunkers” initiatives encouraging more fuel-efficient transportation. Notably, at the same time these vans have been disappearing from our roads – film photography as a visual medium has also begun it’s slow death. Consequently the goal of the project is to one day shoot the last remaining van on the final frame of photographic film in existence. Then the project will be finished.
These once-proud monuments to all that was groovy were sometimes actually pretty great works of craftsmanship. It took Stevens' isolated photos of the vans for me to consider them as design projects. If only I could give my incoming Freshman art students some metal-flake paint and some masking tape, I could probably come away with some badassssssssss projects. I just read that Jeff Koons is creating an art car that has been commissioned by BMW..... He'd probably do better to dig up an old Ford Chateau.
Speaking of which...I think that old van is still rusting away somewhere on my parents' farm. Maybe I should rescue it and give it a sweet Sol LeWitt or Mark Rothko paint job.