I graduate with my art school MFA, I have a studio full of tidbits and curiosities I've never found a way to use, like one hundred beige coffee stirrers, mismatched scrabble letters, and a footlong wooden boat. But of course, I'm a performance artist, my art is supposed to disappear after I make it. My solution for my "stuff," short of becoming a magician, arrives in the form of Harrod Blank's book "Art Cars." Perfect: an art car is both an object and a performance! Starting in 1999, artists Suzanne Hinton, Travis Hanmer, and I sand MONA down, and with gleeful precision apply paint and everyday debris from a wire fan to recycled toothbrushes to an astroturf stage. My boyfriend-at-the-time says MONA looks like she has been "run over by a circus."
MONA: My Offering: Neighborhood Art. The Poetry Drive-By: We drive with a poet to a place where people are waiting in line at night, like Boston's Landsdowne Street club district. The featured poet jumps out of the car, leaps up onto the tiny roof stage and delivers three poems or less to captive appreciative audiences. Then, quick, back in the car! Drive away! Driving my art car every day for 5 years is a totally interactive art experience. We field surprised smiles from shoppers, knowing childish looks from the elderly, open-mouthed finger pointing from kids, even horrified disapproving stares from fancy car owners. We are serenaded by honks and hellos. I like to believe that we even directly offset rush hour road rage!
Sometimes, MONA attracts vandalism. I decide that if someone needs a toothbrush (or 10) that badly, that they would take them off my car... they can have them. When the police ask me what color is my car, I smile and say, "rainbow." After a few years, I sell MONA to a junkyard. It's a tender, yet colorful moment.
My Art Car, MONA, was featured in the Boston Globe, on WCVB's Chronicle, in parades around New England, including First Night Boston, and was seen by thousands of people daily on city streets. Special thanks to Stephen Baird of Community Arts Advocates.