A couple of weeks ago, Trudi and I were walking over to AU to get some lunch, and were stopped in our tracks by this wonderful car. We had been grumbling about something or other, but the sight of this little, red KIA Soul all decked out like some Pakistani truck took our breath away, making us forget whatever it was that had been making us unhappy just moments before.
Although we were hungry, and hours of work awaited us back at the office, we took our time to examine all the curlicues and furbelows, risking our lives by standing in the middle of busy, Massachusetts Avenue to take photos of every side.
We admired the medallions filled with cockatoos, parakeets, and lovebirds; dogs chasing each other across a peaceful meadow; and even a beguiling houri, offering a prayer against a sky filled with stars. We applauded the skill of the artist, whose practiced hand unerringly filled each border with repeating motifs of stylized leaves and flowers. Our own mouths curved upward at the expressive eyes and pink smile that made the front of the car echo the face of the divine, greeting every passerby with abundant, overflowing grace. And we wondered whose hands had turned a mere means of transportation into a mandala on wheels.
It seems to me that this is the function of art, whether in the gallery, in the church, or in the street: to stop us in our tracks. Some art does this with shocking images or heartfelt stories, designed to make us think about the broken places in the world. Some art does this with sparseness and simplicity, designed to open us to the transcendent reality that is beyond any description or story. And some art simply makes us laugh with amazement and glee that anyone would take the time to do such a thing.
Ever since, I’ve been saying that I want to turn my own humble, little automobile into an art car, too. I’ve been researching what kind of paint would make such a time-consuming project survive in the changeable DC weather; dreaming about what images and motifs would speak of both serenity and joy amid the noise and distraction of city traffic; and asking myself if I am really able to accept the responsibility that driving such a car would require. Do I have what it takes to drive an art car? Do you?
PS -- If you know who is responsible for this astonishing manifestation in the AU neighborhood, please give them my thanks, and ask them to look me up. I want to meet them!