My Journey into the World of Automotive Art

Story and images by Bruce Wheeler

Conditions for me in 1990 were such that I felt it was time for change.

As far back as the 1960’s, I had created some whimsical impressions of cars in hand formed metal. These were primitive cartoons, intentionally in distressed condition. I saw humor in many of the designs, but appreciated that they were “State of the Art” for their time.

Automobile Quarterly began publication in 1962. It had a very important influence on my eventual direction. Many of the featured photos and editorials were of cars that no longer existed or were in private collections or museums. I was fascinated with the variety of designs, the innovation, the creativity, the evolution. I was not so concerned with the mechanical advances, as I was about how those changes affected the shapes and visual Aesthetics of the car.

By 1990, I had accumulated skills in Jewelry making, Welding, woodworking, Casting, Mold-making, Illustration, Forensic Courtroom presentation and Exhibit Design. I was aware of a growing interest in the Automobile as an “Art Form”. The active Artists were mostly very good painters.

As an exhibit designer I had learned that many clients responded better, and understood a concept in the form of a 3-dimensional model than even a very good illustration or painting. So, it seemed it was time for me to see if I could find an audience for my work.

By the mid 1990’s I had produced enough work to show and set off to exhibit my work. It took some time to gain credibility and be accepted into the better shows.

A chance encounter with Leon Mandell of AutoWeek magazine at a show was an ”Epiphany”. Leon approached me in my booth and asked me to tell him the story behind a piece, a derelict cab-over semi- truck. I had no idea who Leon was. I blanked, responded it did not have a story. Leon ruffled!,, of course it does! He began imagining events the truck might have known, midnight truck stops , dangerous snow covered roads, hitchhikers, breakdowns, final abandonment when too old.

Later I realized that what he was suggesting to me was the sculptures have the ability to communicate.

Today my sculpture are more complex, more detailed. My skills have improved, but there are still limits to what shapes I can create directly in metal. Copper has become my primary material for forming and patinas.

I had chosen direct metal forming fabrication instead of the more traditional Lost wax bronze process because I retained complete control of the art without the use of a foundry.

The copper sculpture has now become the “canvas” to which the patina “painting“is applied. The Patinas are intended to suggest an experienced surface. I have several pieces where the use of abstraction is employed. Intending the viewer to mentally complete the impression. The Count Trossi Mercedes and the Delahaye Type 165 are examples.

The intent of my sculpture is to pay homage to the creators of these cars, and to suggest something about their histories, experiences and stories. I want the viewer to supply his imagination about possible experiences and become the “Storyteller.

It has been an incredible Journey. I have met enthusiasts from all over the world and had the pleasure to show my work alongside of some of the best Automotive artists in the world.

Detailed contact information at: Contact Page

motor>spirit - Rob Alen