Marci MacFarlane is a fellow blogger who was kind enough to look me up so we could discuss a couple of my blog posts. I later found out she was the owner of The Trophy Wife art car. I had not seen it around but last August I happened to catch it parked outside the North Portland Tool Library where Marci works. When she’s not keeping her art car in tip top shape, Marci is one of the curators of the public art that can be found at the Pittman Addition HydroPark. I appreciated the opportunity to ask her a few questions about her art car creation.
Photo courtesy of Marci MacFarlane
What I was wondering was what it was that inspired you to create an art car? Well, I’ve had an art car since ’88, I think, my first art car, it’s kind of funny, I was dating this guy at the time and his ex-girlfriend was selling her car and so he went down to California and brought it up and I bought it from her, it was a Dodge Dart, a great car, it was an old cop car and one day I was at school and he said, “oh, I saw the Dart the other day and I thought that’s great Gwen’s in town but then I remember you bought it.” And I was like, “really, you saw that car and you were all excited because you thought your ex-girlfriend was in town.” I went over to a friend’s house, Jeff Skinner, who owns the Tree of Shame on Sumner and I’m like, “I have to do something. I can’t have this car look like that.” So my first car, I painted it bright orange and we glued AstroTurf to the top of it so it had green all over the top of it. It was fun because I worked at Powell’s and I’d come downtown and one time when I was at school downtown somebody glued a bunch of animals to the top of it so it looked like a little forest, it looked like a little farm, a bunch of those blew off because they didn’t use very good glue. And another time, I was downtown working by Blitz brewery and I came out from work and I’m like, “what the hell is on top of my car” and someone had cut out what looked like a putting green and they had a flag sticking up and there was a little golf ball on top it and it was on top of my car and there was nobody around. This was so weird. So that ran for a really long time and then I killed it by running out of oil. I had another one that was a Chevy Nova—glued glass all to the side, that was bright blue and then I had astro turf on the top of that but it was a blue and black AstroTurf and that lasted a long time ‘cause it was a Chevy Nova as my friend said you know they call those “No Goes” down in Mexico. It finally died. I didn’t have one for a while, but the one I have now, The Trophy Wife, the car was just trashed it was trashed. He bought it from the original owner and he ended up, you know, taking it to one of these title places and he needed two hundred dollars so he was like, “do you want to buy this for two hundred dollars?” I’m like sure. It was maroon and it was just ugly. I wasn’t sure what I was going do with it but that’s the whole idea, you buy a really ugly car and make it look pretty. A friend of mine, a good friend of mine who died in 2009, Tom Kennedy, saw the car and he was like, “you know this would look so cool if you cut the top off and you had fins on the back. I was like “really, I can’t cut the top off” and he was like, “yeah you can.” I said we live in Oregon. He was like, “So what.”So that’s what happened. Although Tom died before we were ever able to get the fins on it. And that’s where that last one came from and it’s one of my other cars, the Nova, I had, I had gone to, have you heard of Scrap? So I had gone there when they were on Broadway and they had all these bowling trophies and she said, “as many as you can fit in a bag for 10 dollars.” I was like, “okay.” So I got them home and now I have 50 bowling trophies, they were all kinds of trophies, but I was like, I’m just going to put them on the hood of the car. So I started drilling them in and putting them on the hood of the car and then when I got the convertible–when I made the convertible, that’s when I was like, “oh this is going to be the Trophy Wife. This is the Trophy Wife.” That’s how that one came along.
I was wondering about the concept and so that inspiration came from a bag of bowling trophies? Yeah, and my Ford Nova, I had trophies on that, so I kind of started collecting them and people would give them to me because they would see them on the car and then like I said this is perfect, cut it off, paint it bright pink then kind of play on the whole trophy wife idea because at the time I wasn’t married. So it was kind of more of a joke, you know, like “hey.” I’m a little difficult to get along with so my friends joked about it like, “yeah you’re the trophy wife.”
How long did it end up taking to make? Really not that long, cutting off the top and popping out the back, we did it all within a summer like two, three months. I kind of took time, I pulled out the seats one weekend and recovered them and put them back in and everything was in stages. But I mean it would take about 3 months. I did that one, that was 2002, the summer of 2002.
Were there any more kind of adventures as far as collecting all the trophy parts? I have gone to events. Have you ever heard of Combine Demolition Derby? That’s fun. Up in Lind, Washington there’s this thing called the Combine Demolition Derby and it’s always the weekend of Father’s Day and we went to it in the late ‘90’s. Somebody was like, “oh we have to go to this.” The idea is four combines go in and they bash the hell out of each other until one of them comes out and then the ones that are left after that, because there is usually five or six heaps, go in and bash each other until somebody comes out. You can only do twelve welds per combine to alter it and the thrashers can’t be more than, I think it was, 12 or 15 inches off the ground and the thrashes don’t work. So we started going up to that and one time we were up in Ritzville and we’re at a bar and there was like three different art cars out there because we’d go up there and they wanted us to be in the parade which is fun because it’s only three blocks long and then they’d feed us pulled pork and potato salad in the park. So we’re in this bar and this guy is talking, “did you see those cars?” and we were like, “yeah, those are ours.” And he’s like, “Yeah, who’s is the trophy one?” I’m like “well, that’s mine.” He goes, “I got something. You wait here. I’m going to run home and we’re like, “really?” And he came back and he had a trophy that he won, I think it was bowling, and it was a horse’s ass. And he’s like, “will you put this on your car?” and I said, “sure let’s go out and put it on right now. “So we went out and put it on—the horse’s ass on the car. There’s been other ones every now and then friends will be like, “oh I was at this garage sale and I saw this great trophy.” I have a couple of Police Officer shooting (trophies), animals are really hard to find, bowling ones are easy but then I’ve had people that have won them, you know when they were kids and they’ve given them to me and I’m like, “sure let’s put it on.”
Well then do you have to replace them? Sometimes yeah, I do, you know the plastic ones get old and brittle so eventually they break off and then I had, what I’d call the apocalypse one year, I think it was 2012, where I came outside in the morning and somebody had broken five different trophies off and had unscrewed a bunch of other ones. So you know, it is what it is. And every now and then when I’m downtown I’ll lose one. One time I had parked downtown on Burnside and Broadway, and I was like, “man, I shouldn’t park here, I’m going to lose one and we came back and one of them was broken off and I’m like, “oh man, really and then I found it in the back seat of the car next to a PBR can that said sorry and it was a full beer and I’m like that’s really nice they accidently broke off the trophy and they left me a PBR because as you can see people can reach in and take what ever they want out of the car.
Photo courtesy of Marci MacFarlane
Are you part of the art car scene then? Somewhat. I’ve gone to a couple of events. My friend Victor has done a lot more of those ‘cause the Trophy Wife isn’t really a great traveller and a lot of the events take place down in San Francisco, although last summer my husband took it up to, ‘cause I had to work, he took it up to Seattle, the Fremont Fair and all the art cars go up there and it’s really great ‘cause Kelly who runs that gets donations from a lot of businesses and so they pay for you and they put you up and they feed you for like four days and you just have to park your car at the Fremont Fair on Saturday and Sunday. I’ve gone down to San Francisco for, I think it’s called “WekFest” and this next year is going to be the 10th anniversary of it. One year in 2006 we were down in San Jose outside of the San Jose art museum. They did a whole art car festival and they had a bunch of cars inside. They had the rest of us parked outside. It was a whole day thing so I’ve done a few of them. But more and more lately the car is kind of getting a little old.
Is there local activity for art cars? There used to be. There’s a lot of them in Portland and there’s a lot of them around here. We did the Hawthorne Fair one time and what they did was they did the parade and then the cars went through that and then they parked up on the side in front of the businesses along Hawthorne because they block off the street well, some of the businesses complained that too many people were crowding in front of the cars and they couldn’t get into the business and so we didn’t go back to that anymore. And then we’ve done the Alberta Street Fair, I think once or twice, and it was the same thing, the businesses were like, “the cars, the cars there’s too many people looking at the cars and they can’t get into my business.” And we tried to explain, “that’s awesome you have like twenty people standing outside your business, like now you need to get them in. We got ‘em here, you need to get ‘em in.” Haven’t done a whole lot lately although when everyone heads up to Seattle in June a lot of them stop over here because Tom Kennedy, he was a huge art car guy, he’s been an art car guy forever and his mom lives up here so everybody stops here and sees his mom because everybody knows Tom or used to.
The one last thing, I was wondering about was the type of car and then what made it a good fit to be an art car? Well, anything that’s cheap and ugly because people sell cars that are ugly for cheap and all you need is a coat of paint. I always try to get cars that I can work on or I can get something done easily. When I was down in San Francisco with the Trophy Wife a couple of years ago my alternator went out on the side of the road and it was awesome because we called a couple of places and they had what they called a Triage Van so if any of the cars broke down the Triage Van would stay with you and get you, called a place, went there, got the part, was back at the car, had it all installed in like an hour and a half to two hours. Whereas, you can’t do that nowadays. I mean you get a car nowadays you’re not going to be able to do that with the newer cars and you really need to know how to work on your car. And so I always look for the older things and especially if there’s dings or damages or stuff like that. Like the Trophy Wife, the back seat on the passenger side, I think it got hit at one point or some thing so it was having troubles opening and closing and I just finally closed it and sealed it so you can’t get in on that side, that’s all. You just crawl over the back.
Marci MacFarlane as the Trophy Wife
Any reactions to it? Oh people love it. I have a PA out on the front, that’s the one thing where people are like, “I don’t think we should give you a PA you have a loud enough voice as it is but I have a PA in the front of it and I pretty much try to play Wizard of Oz that’s about it. I did have Willy Wonka for a while but people didn’t recognize the songs. I got a couple of others but it just wasn’t the same but the Wizard of Oz, I mean, you drive down a street on a sunny day and everybody knows that, everybody knows all the songs, people stop, they smile, they wave and it’s just, it’s cheerful. My husband always wants to pull out and sing on the PA because I actually have a phone. Have you seen the phone in front? So it’s literally like a hand receiver like this and it’s hooked up to my PA and so you can just pick the phone up and you speak into it and if you have it on the right station and it broadcasts anything you say out the front. So he likes to sing out of the front of that. But mostly it’s just you know, it’s smiles. There’s a few times when I’ve parked downtown and I’m in a hurry and I’ll come back to the car and I’ll be like, “there’s like nine people standing there and I don’t want to get into the car and I’m not going to be able to drive away” ‘cause then they’re like, “can I take a picture of you? Can I take a picture of you? Is that your car? That’s so cool.” And I always offer to help ‘em do it to their car, like if you want to and they’re like, “what do you do when it rains?” And I’m like, “I get wet. I get wet, there’s no top. It doesn’t come back.”
Check out Marci’s blog: http://sewingwithcupcake.blogspot.com
See a brief video version of this blog post: https://youtu.be/_Xk32wWQoa8