I'll tell you my story so you can understand what making art means to me.…
Along the way
In 1977, Micheal and I took a friend’s brand new TR6 Triumph convertible for a test drive. It was a beautiful day, and the windy back roads of Valley Forge Mountain were the perfect place to enjoy this zippy little hotrod of a car. Michael was driving the speed limit but took one of the curves and a small bump in the road just a little too fast. We went into a spin and flipped onto its side, then the two of us went flying out and landed on a small hill next to the road. Miraculously, I landed on top of Michael’s chest with only a bruise on my leg. He was ok too, minus the weight that landed on his chest.
"We have to stop meeting like this."
The first thing out of his mouth was, “We have to stop meeting like this.” After a brief laugh and a bit of shock, we gathered ourselves and walked down the slope from where we landed. The car was totaled, and our friendship with Albert (owner of the vehicle) most likely would be changed forever, but at that moment, I was just grateful to be alive. I looked down and saw an odd chunk of tire sitting next to the car. Feeling a bit shocked to have come out of that event practically unscathed, I picked up that tire scrap, and to this day, keep it in my car as a good luck charm. (shown below)
My Good Luck Charm that I keep in my cars since 1977
Although this seems like a good place for tire art images to have been birthed, it wasn’t until 2012 that I started collecting these individual tire creatures from the side of the road. The exposed steel-belted wires combined with the weathered rubber tread were both randomly ripped and torn to make fascinating configurations. Many of them evoke the aliveness of Japanese Zen calligraphy that happens instantaneously, empty of thought or preconceived ideas.
I fell in love with my first collected batch and knew I was hopelessly hooked on finding more. At first, I didn’t know exactly why I was so attracted to them or what I would be doing with them, but I knew they made me feel alive with the promise of discovering something new. Little did I know at the time that they would soon become a symbolic path for healing, and the scrap that I found would become a logo.
Zen Calligraphy Class
To fully understand how tire parts caught my eye, to begin with, I have to tell you a bit about a weekend course I took in 2013 where I studied zen calligraphy with a world-renowned Zen Chinese Calligraphic Painter. I have always admired this art form and knew it would take years of study to master, but for this weekend, I just wanted to enjoy the simple pleasure of holding bamboo brushes and to feel what it was like to paint black ink on delicate white paper. As it turns out, it was just as exciting and wonderful as I had hoped. The teacher was engaging and gave all of us significant challenges to listen to a poem or quote and then “become empty” before we put brush to paper. I liked everything about this form of painting and understood that even though it takes years to perfect this idea of painting from emptiness, it was still inspiring to explore.
As I began to digest the weekend calligraphy class, I realized that my collection of tire parts were as much a representation of a zen moment as anything I could do with paint. These fragments of tire came from something that can only have an “empty mind,” and their expression (tire fragments) was unique to the circumstances which proceeded them (heat & friction). The tire parts evoke the same expression as a brushstroke with their dense area of black that becomes a frayed edge of steel wires, pulled apart and beautifully distressed. These particular brush strokes were born out of one moment in time in an explosion.
Many things in nature are discarded as well. On one of my trips traveling through Valley Forge Park, I found a giant piece of bark that fell right next to the road. An entire 10-foot piece of soaked tree bark went into my car. Even though many feet of it hung out of the back of my hatchback, it miraculously arrived at my home in one piece. Each discarded object can be examined with a fresh eye and presented in a way that makes us look at it as though it’s the first time.
Tree bark drying out in the driveway before it’s big photo shoot.