The Lady Art Car

The Lady Art Car


The Lady was inspired by the rhetoric of war and religious hatred that became front line news after 9/11. Listening to the news on the radio as I drove to the college campus where I taught every day, I thought of how women's voices are so often silenced in paternalistic societies and also of how women and children are often the victims of wars begun by political leaders who are overwhelmingly men.

"We should listen to the voices of women," I thought, and The Lady art car was born. I took as my muse the Virgin of Guadalupe, who combines in her image two once-warring cultures and opposing systems of belief-Hispanic and Aztec. Considered by many to be a champion of the oppressed, she could be a mouthpiece for all women united in a common cause for peace and understanding.

In honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe and of women of all cultures and traditions, I have named my art car "The Lady." The car celebrates women and the ways they re-create their worlds when those worlds have been damaged or destroyed. Throughout time, women have used everyday materials to express their art and craft. My car is embellished with paint, buttons, beads, straight pins, scraps of cloth and mesh bags, left over items from sewing and craft projects, fragments of poetry, china pieces collected from old home sites long abandoned, silver milagros, Barbie dolls, sculptured parts created from insulating foam, and found objects.

In many areas of the world today, women help support their families still through the work of craft. The buttons, needlework, and sewing notions that I have glued to my car remind us of these women and of our own mothers and grandmothers. The car was to speak for women, for the ways in which they deal with change and with loss. Needle and thread visually represent the metaphor of mending: "mending the world." Buttons suggest "buttoning up" or "unbuttoning." So many of the troubles in the world today are exacerbated by people's unwillingness to listen to voices that are different from their own.

We "button up" out of fear, anger, distrust, despair. And so part of the process of creating the car included listening to those voices. Encounters that I had with people during the day were transformed into poetic fragments or images on the car.

I glued on the back of the car a box with pen and paper where people could leave messages. For a little more than a year while I was working on the car and driving it daily to work, I kept a journal of all the comments left in the box on the back of the car. These comments illustrate the different ways in which people respond to art, particularly to art that hasn't been privileged in a museum, where art is less accessible and more authoritative and thus more intimidating. "The Lady" celebrates the ways in which women deal with change and with loss and the ways in which they support their families and sustain their own desires for beauty and art.

The Lady's first parade was the 2003 Houston Art Car Parade, sponsored by the Orange Show. Since then, she has participated in the 2004 and 2005 Austin Art Car parades and in an Austin art car parade on June 11, 2005, scheduled as an opening event for the national convention of Americans for the Arts. She has most recently been part of the Holiday Invitational "Toys" Exhibit at the Cultural Activities Center in Temple, Texas (November 18-December 16, 2005).