- Visual Arts
I want to be a race car driver. Don’t you? Perhaps you’d rather be an astronaut or a ballerina; I grew up around cars, and career fantasies, like fetishes, form early. My father raced off road in the 60s and 70s, and he encouraged my three older sisters to follow suit, but, before my feet reached the gas pedal, he retired from the circuit,
My dormant ambition resurfaced after I moved to the suburbs in 2006 with my wife, young sons and dog. Just as parvo lurks in the soil, middle aged ennui permeates the tracts of my community. I began making work about the not-so-quiet desperation of my suburban compatriots, many of whom are serious gearheads. Believing that good art, like good fiction, succeeds when you channel what you know, I tapped a childhood enveloped in exhaust and alkaline dust. I sought to understand my father’s passion by recreating it, using the process as fuel for new bodies of work.
Car 23 is an amalgam of the Toyota Landcruisers my father raced in Baja (and the Mint 400 and other desert rallies where family and friends served as pit crew and relief drivers). I began with the body, which took center stage in Hilites (Miami Art Museum, 2008). In time, I got the car up and running, driving it into the Laguna Art Museum for Searcher in fall 2010. Now, I am preparing Car 23—and myself—to race.
Searcher was an homage to my father, who died earlier this year after a long, full life. It began with the idea of recreating the experience of traversing undeveloped land—great swathes of which still exist in Baja California (eluding Alta California’s fate of becoming one giant strip mall). The Mexican 1000—a race from Ensenada to La Paz—was my father’s favorite race. In 2010, the National Off Road Racing Association (NORRA) created a vintage rally of this storied route, and I intend to complete it.
Neither NORRA nor I recommend taking your average 4x4 across 1000 miles of dirt tracks at high speeds—especially not one built in 1964. Specialized equipment is required. With your help, I will reinforce the car's suspension, electronics and update its safety equipment. I will also train for the spring 2012 race.
My plan is to document my progress online and use the experience to generate a physical body of work that I hope will "address the ways in which masculinity is constructed in contemporary visual culture, and how these constructions are used to define the boundaries between high art and popular culture, industrial design and craft (Doug Harvey, ‘Sean Duffy: Signs of Intelligent Life,’ LA Weekly, December 2, 2009).”