Take This Show on the Road

"A loonie a look" is what Saskatchewan-based artist Gerri Ann Siwek charges for a peek into Funomena, her mobile museum of the weird and strange. (A loonie, by the way, is a Canadian buck, not a crazy relative.) Siwek, one of several art-car extremists scheduled to address the topic of "The Road Trip" at the 1999 Art Car Symposium, will be towing her ten-foot-by-six-foot 1971 Bowler Trailer full of pseudo-scientific objects into town this Friday.

Among the 13 shady artifacts housed in the three-person-capacity Funomena museum are two snapshots of a sprinting Sasquatch and a plaster cast of his foot; a lovingly rendered likeness of Elvis which features gen-u-ine Elvis hair collected by his housekeeper Lily May Ludlow; four clairvoyant, cloned frogs that will "read your mind"; alien artwork discovered in the Great Pyramid of Giza; and "Plantman," the aberrant by-product of genetically engineered vegetables. Siwek, who launched her career as a "sucker painter" at an Ontario candy factory and later went on to study at The Arts Students League in New York, says she's interested in "questioning authenticity" while examining the public's insatiable appetite for the uncanny.

Also speaking at the symposium is a Narrator 1000 (an old-timey automated slide and audio presentation device) on behalf of the designers of Object D'art, a "bookmobile of contemporary art." The Object D'art, created by the nationally dispersed art collaboratives SIMPARCH and Sandbox, is a touring trailer art gallery (towed by a 1973 Dodge Dart) in a seven-foot-by-nine-foot-by-11-foot shipping crate outfitted with white Sheetrock walls, track lighting and hardwood floors. On view is a nationally juried exhibition of 21 works under ten inches in any direction selected by Houston's art-making collaborative, The Art Guys. Steven Lacy, Matt Lynch and Chris Vorhees, who refer to themselves as "mechanics/museum docents," will answer live questions following the prerecorded lecture.

Four months into their yearlong project "Motoring into the Millennium," the road-tripping husband/wife team of Cesar Becerra and Maud Dillingham are making a Houston pit stop in their quest to "take the pulse" of premillennial America. From January 1, 1999, through December 31, 1999, the twentysomething Miami-based writers will travel through all 50 states in their 1979 Chevrolet Malibu Classic station wagon; their travel diary is updated weekly at www.intothemillennium.com.

Photographer Marilyn Root is making her fifth road trip from Massachusetts to Houston for the Art Car Weekend, and this time she's bringing Women at the Wheel, her new book about the special relationship between women and their cars. Forty-two motor madams are featured in Root's monograph, including a Mack truck driver from Rhode Island, a bus driver from Ohio, an electric-vehicle mechanic from Maine and, of course, several art-car artists. Representing the other side of gender-based car enthusiasm is Chief Curator of the Oakland Museum, Philip E. Linhares, with his presentation "Hot Rods and Customs: The Men and Machines of California's Car Culture."

And rounding out the very driven group of artists in the symposium are motivational speaker and art-car creator Hyler Bracey of Smyrna, Georgia, and Houston's own lone wolf Nestor Topchy, Creative Director and Founder of TemplO art space. Ever the rebel, Topchy will tell stories about his pedestrian travels and spiritual quests.

-- Andrea Grover

The Art Car Symposium kicks off Art CarWeekend Friday, April 16, 7:30-9 p.m., at the Menil Collection, 1515 Sul Ross. $5. The Art Car Parade itself will begin its cruise down Allen Parkway into downtown Saturday, April 17, at 12:30 p.m. Free. And don't miss the Art Car Ball Saturday, April 17, 8 p.m.-midnight, at the Allen Center Parking Garage, 300 Clay. Tickets are $40 in advance at Randalls stores and $45 at the door. Call the Orange Show at (713)926-6368 for information.

 
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