Every fall, Emily Duffy leads a caravan of drivers who are quite literally taking their art to the streets for ArtCar Fest. Cars decorated with butterfly wings, doll heads, skulls, Mardi Gras beads, and a slew of other whimsical materials caravanned through downtown Berkeley on Friday before hitting the road for the 10-10-10 weekend in Sacramento.
“Its borderline illegal,” says Duffy who is the Festival Director. “Its not a parade because these are street legal vehicles that happen to be going in the same direction. The surprise is part of it. Its more about everyday being surprised by art,” says Duffy.
Duffy leads the caravan in her autobiographical art car VainVan, a vehicle she designed like a woman’s body. A bra covers the front of the van and the back is plastered with fattening food. On the sides are writings that talk of exploitation such as who profits from your self-loathing? And Vanity thy name is woman marketing.
“The VainVan was a way to apologize to all the women in the world who’ve been told they’re not good enough,” explains Duffy who worked in the fashion industry for 13 years and says she was trying to undo that.
“The VainVan is my midlife crisis manifested onto a car,” Duffy says. She’s noticed the car attracts a deep felt response from women over 40 and under 5 (because they think its Barbie’s car).
“In between are the women who really need to pay attention to it but are not able to yet. They think it’s garish,” she explains. Duffy says the number one question people ask her is how long did it take you? Not why did you do it?
“People rarely ask why. Its so infuriating,” says Duffy.
ArtCar Fest launched in Berkeley in 1996 and was always the grand finale in theHow Berkeley Can You Be Parade until last year when that parade was cancelled. This year, ArtCar Fest had a peak of 42 cars, which was its lowest number ever.
“We’ve basically been shrinking,” says Duffy who explains that there have been up to 100 cars some years.
Still, Duffy believes the success of this year’s fest, which was sponsored by Sacramento’s Crocker Art Museum, is a positive sign for the future.
“The art car artist has a way of literally taking their art to the streets. It is really public art—more than murals. It really breaks you out of your humdrum life. That’s what art is supposed to do,” says Duffy. “It’s not for the rich. It’s for everyone.”
To view art car festivals around the country check out the calendar onwww.yarncar.com