The Many Faces of "God" on Display at Whimsical Art Car Museum Exhibition

Leave it to the art car crowd to have a lot of irreverent fun with an open-call show titled God. While a few artists did what bordered on the obvious or banal (no, really, some woman took up valuable wall space with an old oval wall mirror with the words "God Is You" in pink lipstick smeared on it), for the most part this was a playful, thoughtful examination of deity that packed the museum for a couple of hours.

Of course, an un-juried open call show puts all ranges of talent in the same room. There was actually one room that was referred to as "the shit room" or "the shit wall" by onlookers several times over the course of the evening. And for the most part, I had to agree. Still, it is a tribute to the skills of the staff that the 125-piece show, which they had only a week to place/hang, looked remarkably well organized and thought out.

Overall, it was hard to tell the famous artists -- and there were more than a few accomplished folks -- from the not-so-famous. Ed Wilson's prominently placed steel sculpture "God Dog: The Amazing Test of Faith," a steel circle with the letters G-O-D attached that rotated to spell D-O-G when the disc was spun, was a crowd-pleaser.

So was an installation cleverly titled "It's For You" by collaborators Pen Morrison and Stefan Stout. It consisted of a white cloud dipping down from the roof (a wire frame to which upholstery ticking was fastened) and a white telephone receiver which hung from the cloud. It drew traffic all night as people took the call from God and heard music playing (when I picked up the phone, it was Bob Dylan singing "Just Like A Woman.") Both children and adults seemed thrilled with the piece.

Our two favorite metal sculptures were Mark Bradford's clever rotating stainless steel, brass, and copper piece titled "Dancing With the Devil" and Ben Hoyt's "God's World," with the world represented by a large steel ball bearing sitting atop long steel-rod legs that were attached to gears at floor level.

Another laugh-out-loud crowd pleaser was "Cleanliness Is Next To Godliness" by the Alter Girls, Alicia Duplan and Tacey Tajan. The wall-mounted piece was a cross made out of empty Tide detergent boxes. It drew startled chuckles all night.

Our personal favorite was Brian Cavanaugh's "Dogma," a mixed media assemblage that looks like an old flintlock rifle on the stock end that has a modern day silencer on the barrel end. In between, the dilapidated rifle is held together by a conglomeration of springs and other metal fasteners as though the gun has been repaired many times; with its raison d'etre forgotten, all that matters is that the gun, which has taken on a life of its own, remains a gun.

But outside the telephone from heaven hanging from a cloud, certainly the most novel and popular item in the show was Rebekah Tee's "First Bid Vendors For God." The piece consisted of a goofy two-slot vending machine, probably a retired gumball dispenser. Onlookers chose which slot to risk a quarter on, inserted their money, and were rewarded with something akin to an absurdist religious fortune cookie. Did anyone realize Ms. Tee seemed to be on track to take home a hundred dollars or so? Of course, that financial gain was part of her not-so-deeply veiled message about religion.

Other enjoyable pieces included "A Man and His Soul," simply a minimally painted sledgehammer sitting alone on the floor; David Kidd's whimsical marker-on-linen drawing "Atheioctopus;" Alex Harrah's chip-and-transistor laden green cross titled "In Science We Trust;" and Sam van Bibber's assemblage titled "Worship" which looked vaguely like a Hindu shrine but was adorned with golden skulls and miniature televisions. Two televisions showed the old test patterns from early tv days while the center television said "Twilight Zone."

Up beside these outlandish, audacious pieces, we found the series "Sleeping Saints" by featured artist Michael Healey to be, well, sleepy. But that's what he was going for, peace, tranquility, inner strength, so who are we to say.

This all-ages exhibit runs Wednesday-Sunday, 11 a.m. - 6 p.m. through December 14. Admission is free.

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William Michael Smith