‘Car Art’ has a name

The Wichitan


Nicole Kutzer, senior in art
Nicole Kutzer, senior in art

In the last publication of The Wichitan, an article with the headline “Car Art Should Be Cleaned Up” caused quite a buzz in the Fain Fine Arts Visual Arts Department.  Many of the students were upset because they felt that it gave a bad depiction of Hironari Kubota’s sculpture, temporarily named Spinning Chevy, as well as the art department.  A few of us thought that our fellow students on campus, who may not know much about art, deserved more information regarding Kubota’s work as well as answers to questions that were in the article.

Hironari Kubota is a Japanese artist who has performed and exhibited his so called “car art” in countries including China, France, Germany, Ireland, Portugal and most recently Midwestern State University; the debut of his work in the United States. His signature sculptures defy gravity and are one-of-a-kind spinning cars or boats inspired by his hometown’s festival, Onbashira. The purpose of the festival is to symbolically renew the Suwa Taisha, or Suwa Grand Shrine. The English translation of Onbashira is “the honored pillars” named after an important part of the festival, which is to raise the logs by hand on the four corners of the shrine, therefore protecting it.

Spinning Chevy combines the engine of a 1991 Honda Accord that has been connected to a 1949 Chevy Deluxe hanging approximately seven feet above the ground. This past Nov. 1-3, the MSU Visual Arts Department held the 2013 Texas Sculpture Symposium, which began with a gallery opening in Fain that concluded with Kubota’s performance. Many of us watched in awe as Kubota sang a traditional Japanese song followed by Japanese music playing in the background while he powered the engine, enabling the Chevy to spin at varying speeds and directions that he had timed to sync with the music. If you are wondering how the Onbashira festival contributes to this, try looking at the design aspect of the sculpture. In previous works, Kubota has used wooden logs instead of a steel frame. He may have chosen to go with a steel frame for this piece because the ’49 Chevy was very heavy. It may not have been well supported by wood. After debuting, it is not uncommon for performance pieces to be left as standing sculptures. This is a part of the excitement. The significance of the performance aspect can also be traced to Kubota’s inspiration from the Onbashira festival.

All of us here at MSU should be honored to have had Kubota’s first appearance in the United States here on our campus. Not only was this a big deal for our campus, but also for Kubota. Since this was his first time to perform his work in the US, he wanted to use an American car. A Midwestern State University professor donated the Honda to the project, giving Kubota the engine he would need to power his artwork. A student in the art department had the frame of an old Chevy on her family’s property and the student’s family kindly donated it as well. Kubota was excited to introduce Western influences into his artwork. Although the performance is over, Spinning Chevy is currently contracted to remain on campus for a year.

The article stated that the ’49 Chevy featured in Kubota’s artwork takes up too much space. But when you think about it, does it really? Before the sculpture was moved to the lawn area between the Fain Fine Arts building and Prothro-Yeager Building, it was rarely ever used. The Visual Arts Department was one of the few to use the space before the sculpture was placed there. It had to be cleared with the Administration of the school before the Visual Arts Department could occupy the space for such an extended period of time. But overall, most students only ever used it as a walkway. If the car were obstructing the sidewalk, then it would be a different argument. Apologies if it takes an extra minute to get to class because you had to use the sidewalk.

Because the ’91 Honda located outside the sculpture and ceramics patio area was donated to the department, removal has been slowed because the title has yet to be transferred. As a university with funding from the state of Texas, we are obligated to follow policies and regulations regarding its clean up. I can assure you that the Honda will be removed from campus as soon as the department has taken all necessary steps. Unfortunately, since the department has never had a car just “chilling there” before, there is not a designated place to store it. Personally, I am glad they chose to put it on the grass rather than have it occupy a beloved parking space.

Many art students found the cartoon posted above the article to be rude. Graduating senior of the Visual Arts department Sydney Kuehler said, “The picture chosen was very inappropriate because it was not just a visual regarding her opinion of the sculpture, but a depiction of the entire Fine Arts department. I do not believe she has done enough research on the subject to form such a strong opinion.” It is understandable that not everyone knows how to appreciate fine art, however students of the art department were very taken back by the image. Aristotle once said, “The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance. It is important to us in the Visual Arts department that Kubota’s work not be seen as old trash that has served its use and now needs to be disposed of, but as a car that has long served its intended purpose and can be viewed as something pioneering, transforming and lasting.