When Harrod Blank first realized that his ’65 VW Beetle could be treated as a canvas, the result was “Oh My God!”. Painted like a beach ball with a bumper of plastic fruit & rubber chickens, a chalkboard on back and a TV on the roof, the car was the catalyst for his remarkable career.
Initially, Blank thought he was the only one in the world with an Art Car, and at times felt quite alienated. This would change, as he gradually learned from supporters that there were other such cars, spread out across the country. Drawing from what he had learned from his father, filmmaker Les Blank, and the BA in Theater Arts/Film he earned at UC Santa Cruz in 1986, Blank began photographing other Art Cars. Subsequently, he raised money through private investors and took out loans as needed to finance the 64-minute documentary he dreamed of making: Wild Wheels.
To his credit, over 55 million people worldwide have now seen the film. Blank initially distributed Wild Wheels, featuring 46 Art Cars and their respective artists, by driving “Oh My God!” with the film to 50 cities across the country.
Publicity from the tour gained the interest of PBS, which broadcast the film repeatedly as a National Special in 1993. The following year, Blank’s photography was featured in a companion book, Wild Wheels (Pomegranate, 1994; Blank Books, 2001), which was named “Best Book for Young Adults” by the American Library Association.
Blending his passion for Art Cars and his love of photography, Blank was inspired by a dream to attach 1,705 cameras to a 1972 Dodge van. Cleverly hiding ten working cameras among the rest, Blank had finally found a way to capture on film the public’s candid expressions of awe and delight. In 1995, Blank drove the “Camera Van” to New York City for its official “debut” and shot over 5,000 photographs for a photography exhibit, “I’ve Got A Vision.”
In 1995, still enthusiastic about the beauty and power of Art Cars, Blank began production of a feature-length sequel to Wild Wheels. A short version of the film (Driving the Dream, 29 mins.) was broadcast on TBS’s National Geographic Explorer in October 1997 to help raise money for the epic film Automorphosis which was completed in 2009.
Blank made his third Art Car in 1998, an interactive mariachi-themed music mobile called “Pico De Gallo,” which was purchased by Ripley’s Believe It Or Not in 2011. The vehicle was also unveiled in his new book, Art Cars: the Cars, the Artists, the Obsession, the Craft (Lark Books, 2002, 2007). Gene Shalet heralded the book on the Today Show as his favorite holiday gift suggestion. The Petersen Automotive Museum hosted a major exhibition of Art Cars in Spring 2003, of which Harrod Blank was Guest Curator. The National Automobile Museum in Reno NV has invited Blank to curate an exhibition on the history of art cars and mutant vehicles at Burning Man called “Mutant Rides.” (Sept 15 2011 – June 21 2012)
Currently Blank is releasing Automorphosis, is in production on Burning Man: the Movie, a documentary film fifteen years in the making, about the radical arts festival, and is working on building a museum for art cars in Douglas AZ called Art Car World.