We have lived in Central Kentucky for just over 20 years. The Lexington area is known as the Horse Capital of the World, and for good reason, the area is noted for its limestone enriched fertile soil, its excellent pastureland and the perfect place for bluegrass to grow. The area is known for its scenic beauty and manicured landscapes. Sometimes one needs only go into their own backyard to enjoy the ride.. Following are a few “Horse Photos” that I have taken around Central Kentucky, some scenic, but mainly horse art that I come across.
HORSE FARMS AND HORSES OF CENTRAL KENTUCKY
With hundreds of horse farms in the area supporting it, Thoroughbred Racing is a huge industry in Central Kentucky. But there are many other events that occur here as well, especially with the world famous Kentucky Horse Park.
Along with the horse activities are the expansive horse farms with their signature black plank fences and their massive horse barns.
HORSE ART IN CENTRAL KENTUCKY
With so much involved around horses in Central Kentucky, it is no wonder that there is an abundance of horse art to be found in the area. There are numerous paintings and murals and dozens of horse statues dotting the region. Here is just a smattering of what I have come across in my travels around Lexington and the surrounding area.
As a side note on the above two photos of Morgan and Castleman. These are both on the National Register of Historic Places and are the only two Civil War Monuments in Kentucky with equestrians.
THOROUGHBRED PARK – LEXINGTON
Perhaps the shining monument of horse art in Lexington (and Central Kentucky) is Thoroughbred Park. This 2.5 acre park, with its fountains and benches and walking paths offers a splendid retreat. It also provides a unique history of the thoroughbred. The park contains 42 plaques honoring historic figures in the thoroughbred industry, and has 13 life-sized horse sculptures, including the seven horses storming down a track towards the finish line of a race. All of the horse art in this park was done by Lexington artist Gwen Reardon. Following are a few scenes from the park.
ARTSY HORSES – HORSE MANIA 2010 AND MORE
In July 2010, LexArts, a community organization dedicated to the promotion of art in Lexington, created a fund raising project called Horse Mania 2010, which featured 82 painted fiberglass horses that dotted the streets of Lexington. Since that time, many of these were purchased and added to private collections in Kentucky and elsewhere, but some are still visible on the streets of the city. The complete set can be seen HERE and all are clickable to see the whole story behind each one. Following are a few that I have captured over the past three years.
Obviously, there is much more art to be found. The Kentucky Horse Park has a dozen or more outdoor sculptures, photos of which can be seen here. There are also more to be found in surrounding towns such as Paris, Versailles, Cynthiana, Richmond, Danville and more. Its a great place to visit and an even better place to live!!
One of the more unique American traditions along the Less Beaten Paths is the recycling of auto parts for art. Indeed, a couple of the most famous roadside attractions in the US are made from cars. This post will look at a few pieces of “car art” that I have seen over the years and, then, at the end, I will note a few others that are out there and worth a visit from all of us — some that I hope to get to over the next couple of years.
Probably one of the two most famous Car Art pieces that I am aware of, this car shish-kabob called “Spindle” and created by artist Dustin Shuler (1948-2010), became ultra famous after being featured in Wayne’s World. It has also been featured in on the cover of a book (called Oddball Illinois: A Guide to Some Really Strange Places), on postcards, state tourist brochures, and maps. It was originally commissioned by the shopping center owner, David Bermant, who donated his BMW car to be placed second from the top of the sculpture.Shuler himself owned the red 1967 VW Beetle that crowned the sculpture.The foundation of the sculpture reached nearly 30 feet into the ground; the cost of erecting it was over $75,000.
The cars on a spike never did res well with some of the citizens of Berwyn, Illinois, and thus in 1990 they voted overwhelmingly for it to be removed. Nevertheless, the Mayor argued that it drew tourism to town and had become an icon. The owner of Cermak’s Shopping Center argued the same. But, alas, in July 2007, it was announced that the shopping center was to be redeveloped and that the site of the sculpture was earmarked for a new Walgreens store. New controversy ensued and finally, in May of 2008 the structure was taken down.
The impaled cars on the spindle, from top to bottom, were:
1967 Volkswagen Beetle, red
1976 BMW New Class, silver License Plate reads “DAVE”
1981 Ford Escort, blue
1974 or 1973 Mercury Capri, green
1978 Ford Mustang, white over blue
1981 Pontiac Grand Prix, maroon or burgundy
1980 or 1979 Ford LTD, light yellow
1981 or 1979 Mercury Grand Marquis, black
When I was at Cermak’s in 2007 I actually made a video of Spindle along with some of the other art at Cermak’s. Here it is….
Perhaps just as famous is the “Cadillac Ranch” near Amarillo, Texas. Like the “Spindle“, this site has had controversy and has been featured in movies, advertisements, comics, etc. It is most certainly one of the most well known Roadside Attractions in the U.S.
It was created in 1974 by Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez and Doug Michels, who were a part of the art group Ant Farm, and it consists of what were (when originally installed during 1974) either older running used or junk Cadillac automobiles, representing a number of evolutions of the car line from 1949 to 1963, half-buried nose-first in the ground, supposedly at an angle corresponding to that of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.
The cars have gone through numerous iterations…completely black, completely white, stc., when used for ads and commercials. But, soon thereafter, the tourists with the spray paint cans make their way to make their marks on the cars. So, this ends up being a “stationary attraction” always in a state of change.
Due to the popularity of Cadillac Ranch, there have been a few imitators, none of which I have been to yet, but hope to get to sometime in the near future. These include:
This place even has their own website (see combinecity.com). According to their site, “Combine City began with one Combine Harvester planted in the ground. Over time, that solitary Combine has welcomed 13 more. In total, 14 Combines are planted, standing as a tribute to the great nature of the West Texas farmer.” Unlike Cadillac Ranch and Slug Bug Ranch, Combine City does not allow folks to come in and spray paint.
Indeed, this is not cars…it is Airstreams, but these are a great addition to this collection. These are located at Bates RV in Dover, Florida and have been the subject for many photos in the past. My good friend, the musician Antsy McClain has actually done a photo shoot here for some Trailer Park Troubadours stuff (see below).
Like Cadillac Ranch and Slug Bug Ranch, the Airstream Ranch has not been without controversy. Neighbors have argued that it was unsightly, but, ultimately, the Tourist Attraction and Art Factors won out.
Like the other sites, this attracts tourists from all over and has been used in advertisements, etc.
The historic value of Airstreams in travel always leads to an interest in these aluminum domiciles on wheels. There are rallies all over the country and one can always see them on the road. Indeed, many are happy to be “Living in Aluminum” and following the Aluminum Rule – “Thou Shalt Enjoy the Ride”
Henry’s Rabbit Ranch is one of those iconic Route 66 stops on the back roads of America. Located just west of Interstate 55 in southern Illinois (and a short drive north of St. Louis), it lies along the old Route 66. Along with tons of Route 66 memorabilia, they have a set of buried cars.
As with the others above, there are buried cars, but, in this case the creators of Carhenge tried to emulate the famed Stonehenge of England. They too have their own website, including a history of the Jim Reinders creation. This 1987 piece of Car Art has 38 automobiles and there are other pieces of Car Art on “Car Art Reserve”. Like the locations above, Carhenge has been the subject of numerous commercials and film productions.
All of the locations above are big tourist attractions for the back roads adventurer seeking the offbeat and quirky. But, there are many other smaller pieces of car art and/or “car displays” around the country, many of which I have had the opportunity to see. Here are a few.
The flattened car (called “Pinto Pelt“) is another creation by Spindle artist Dustin Shuler and is also located in Cermak’s Plaza. This too went the way of the world apparently in the reconstruction project in Berwyn’s once famous shopping center.
The Art Car Museum in Houston, Texas is dedicated to true Art Cars, those cars that have had art added to them. According to the “Art Car Manifesto“, “an art car is a motor-driven vehicle which a car artist alters in such a way as to suit his own aesthetic. In other words, the artist either adds or subtracts materials of his own choosing to or from the factory model or he may renovate an earlier model to revive a beauty and style that once was. The result is a vehicle which conveys new meaning through design, mechanical or structural changes, renovation, and/or the addition of new images, symbols or collage elements.”
The Art Car Museum website has a great Photo Gallery of some of the more unique cars featured at the museum. When I visited in 2010 the museum was not open so I didn’t get a chance to get any good car shots. But, along the way I have found a couple on my own…
Some of the more unique pieces utilizing cars as art that I have come across in my travels:
“The Smoke Sax” was built in 1993 by artist Bob Wade of Austin, TX. It is 70 feet tall and is made of an oil field pipe, an upside down Volkswagen Beetle, beer kegs, canoe, hub caps, a surf board and chrome. Until March 2013 this was located at the Horn Bar and Grille on Richmond Avenue in Houston, TX. However, in March 2013 it was disassembled and will be eventually added to the unique folk art center called the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art. They also are the sponsor of the Houston Art Car Parade.
Clear across the country in Wolf Creek, Oregon an artist has created two Spider Bugs out of old Volkswagens. Roadside America covered these and, it turns out that these are not the only ones around. There are actually dozens of them. The website Weburbanist has a fine page dedicated to a number of these from around the U.S. including Oklahoma, Idaho, California, Ontario, Nevada, Colorado, Iowa and even in the Netherlands and New Zealand.
Heading back eastward one can venture into Kadoka, South Dakota, near the Badlands National Park and see a unique piece of art made from car parts, including a smashed car as a base…
Then there is the old truck with a Giant Potato on it at The Spud Drive-In in Driggs, Idaho
More emulation of Cadillac Ranch can be found at the now closed down Rio Brazos Music Hall in Granbury, Texas
Commerce, Oklahoma, one of those Route 66 touristy towns has used parts of cars for advertising
Then there are the places with Cars on roofs and signs and walls to draw people in:
Big Daddy’s is located in the heart of NASCAR Country in North Carolina. And to prove it they have a number of cars on their roof and on their lot.
The Route 26 Mart in Scottsbluff, Nebraska touts itself as an Americana Convenience Mart and has on old finned Chevy on its roof to pull you in….
The Pioneer Auto Show in Murdo, South Dakota tries to draw you in with advertising some of the unique cars…
Angel’s Diner in McAlester, Oklahoma uses old cars to advertise their 60’s themed restaurant and Happy Days Motel.
Of course, what would a Car Art post be without limos with Longhorns on their hoods??
I have run across a couple of places where cars have been integrated into the buildings. Here is one example from western Oregon:
I would be remiss if I didn’t include the iconic and well known Nash AirFlyte that sits outside of Antique Archaeology in Le Claire, Iowa, better known as the home of the History Channel’s American Pickers.
The only Corvette Factory in the world is in my home state of Kentucky, in Bowling Green. They are also the home of the Corvette Museum and they have a nice one on a pedestal…
Finally, there are all of those old trucks and cars that scatter the landscape in yards and fields around the U.S. These can be seen on back roads and some are obviously used as yard decor…
I have a dozen more of these, but I think you get the “pictures.” So, get out and Enjoy the Ride and be on the watch out for those old vehicles that helped someone else Enjoy the Ride in the past!!!
As I travel the backroads of America and Canada I always run across all sorts of what some call “Yard Art”. Others call it folk art, offbeat art, quirky things, etc. Well, there is the whimsical and fun, there is the unique and then the downright strange. Some of the sites, like Cadillac Ranch above, are world famous. Others are in the middle of nowhere and are happenstance and unexpected. Following is a menagerie of quirky and offbeat whimsy and creativity that I have seen. Enjoy the ride and see if you have been to any of these places…
SCRAP METAL DINOSAURS AND DRAGONS
Perhaps one of the most common types of yard art I see is scrap metal work. And it seems that dinosaurs and dragons are the most popular. Here are a few.
(UPDATE II – May 2015: On a recent trip to California, I discovered this great piece called “Horn Dragon” by Upper Lake, CA artist Diego Harris. It certainly fits into this post!)
(UPDATE – October 2013: I have found another great scrap metal artist besides those noted below. Visit my post on Larry Vennard from Centralia, Missouri)
SCRAP METAL CRITTERS
Of course, dinosaurs and dragons are not the only creatures (critters) that can be seen out on the road. Here are a few more scrap metal (found metal) critters from all over…
Of course, dinos and critters are not the only things made out of scrap metal. People are too. Perhaps the biggest and most impressive scrap metal people I have ever seen are the three that comprise the “Tin Family” at the end of the Enchanted Highway in North Dakota (if driving from I-94 or first one if driving from Regent, ND). The Dad is 45 feet tall, Mom is 44 feet tall and the Tin Kid is 23 feet tall. But, there are many more that are unique. Here are a few scrap metal folk found on the road…
Then there is the most magnificent of all scrap metal art pieces, the World’s Largest (according to the Guinness Book of World Recrod’s). This is at the entry of the amazing Enchanted Highway in North Dakota:
CHAIN SAW ART
Obviously, scrap metal is not the only medium used in the creation of yard art. There is a ton of work don with chain saws and wood. I have seen hundreds of pieces dot the country. Here are a few from all over…
The epitome of Chain Saw Art is the Chain Saw Totem Pole forest in Medford, Wisconsin. Chainsaw Gordy has gone to a whole new cut above…. 21 poles with nearly 400 chainsaws in them, all done by Gordy Lekies.
MAILBOXES AS PART OF THE ARTWORK
Though not nearly as prevalent as Chain Saw art and metal art, there are the occasional unique mailboxes to be seen on the back roads of America. I have passed dozens of plastic John Deere mailboxes, fish and cow mailboxes, etc., but then there are the really unique ones….
TOTALLY JUNKED OUT PLACES
Folk art abounds in this country, but there are some who have taken it to excess with knick-knacks, whirly-gigs, old toys, old stuff and more…and all in one place. Some in the name of art and some just to, well, have a place for their stuff. Though I have seen many across the country, here are some of the more outlandish examples (with two or three shots from each place)
Moving on to Woodstock, Ontario and Cliff Bruce’s Windmill Hill, another menagerie of the unusual….(see my writeup here)
Then there is the Flower Man House in Houston, Texas. Built by a man who had been a homeless alcoholic for years, he decided to turn his life around and began putting together his interestingly eccentric colorful house, which sits in an otherwise bland neighborhood.
And just around the corner from the Flower Man’s House is another quirky place – the Law Offices of Tim Hootman. His office is in a brightly colored boxcar and has some unique art sitting outside the place. Really funky…
If these are not quirky enough, how about this place in Lima, Montana…is it a shop, a restaurant, a hotel or just someone’s knick-knack collection? It was closed, so I couldn’t really find out….
If you liked the place in Lima, how about the Junk Store in Buena Vista, Colorado? This place seems to everything (you may not want or need)!!
I came across this fence in Parker, Idaho… completely made of roadsigns
In the small town of What Cheer, Iowa, a lady has gussied up her yard with old wheels, implements and even has a real “flower bed”!
Came across this little “health food store” in Gardner, Colorado, called H Food Store – Huajatollas Foods (see YouTube Video):
And finally, we discovered a couple of places on a back road in central Kentucky. We took Highway 77 (Nada Tunnel Road) and first came across a barn with a hubcap collection:
And we also came across this house near Orlando, Kentucky
Finally, this unique house in Talent, Oregon along with their Shoe Tree: