“Painting is Finished”

“In 1911, the Dadaist painter Duchamp and the sculptor Brancusi toured the Paris Aeronautical Exhibition.  Duchamp was highly excited by all the new forms on display, the engines, wings and other paraphernalia of flight.  The two artists stopped to consider a propeller, with its subtly backswept airfoil blades carved in blonde laminated wood, varnished to a high gloss. ‘Painting is finished,’ Duchamp at length announced to Brancusi.  ‘I can do nothing as good as this propeller, can you?'” 

(quote from Kevin Cameron in “Cycle World”)

Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase No 2

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Mystery Ship

Craig Vetter and Mystery Ship number 4 with collaborator Fujio Yoshimura on left


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  Craig Vetter dreamed of designing a motorcycle.  The success of his Windjammer fairing company in the 1970’s paved the way for the Vetter Mystery Ship.

Where’s your Mystery Ship?…Where’s mine?

I love the grainy picture to the left.  This is the best part of any project, when the dream is fresh and compelling.  Its debut may look like, well…a kludge.  But that chunk of black Windjammer screwed to some scrap plywood is actually a beautiful idea making a jailbreak.  For a few time-suspended moments, perhaps the best of his life, Craig felt the freedom, purpose and exhilaration of making a dream become real.

Art is not something that hangs on the wall.  It’s what we do when we feel most fully alive.  It’s working without a map…or a net.  Art is building a Mystery Ship.

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Prescott, Arizona

Life is funny.  In my last blog post I described visiting Prescott, Arizona for the first time.  After 8 months of playful discussions, a decision, a home purchase and an eventful move, Rosalie and I now live…er,…’here’ while retaining a summer base on San Juan Island.  I’ll resume my long-suspended blog by describing part of the adventure.

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Rosalie was the pathfinder, taking one vehicle to meet the moving van in Prescott.  Three weeks later, cousin Mark and I, the San Juan Island closeout team, boarded a predawn Washington State ferry.  Mark’s classic mid-eighties station wagon pulled two bikes on their new motorcycle trailer.  My one-ton truck pulled a 20′ utility trailer.  I struggled more than anticipated to keep up with Mark in the mountain stretches of Washington, Oregon and Idaho.  A truck scale later revealed that my combined rig weighed over 20,000 lb!  (more…)

Architects & Motorcycles

Rosalie and I visited Milwaukee last week to see the Santiago Calatrava-designed Milwaukee Art Museum and the Harley Davidson Museum.  We stayed for two nights at the motorcycle-themed Iron Horse Hotel.  There, on casual display, like some kind of lobby furniture, is a beautiful motorcycle once judged the world’s top custom.

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Salem Highlights

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I wished I’d had a camera as I came up behind this rig
(Phil’s bike and trailer are set up a little differently in this internet photo).

I was headed home from the BMW MOA International Rally in Salem, Oregon with a garbage bag on my chest, experimental earplugs in my ears and my bike’s oil cap securely in place. As I rolled through Portland, traffic-free this early on Sunday morning, I began to overtake an unusual, cigar-shaped object.

Phil Funnell and his three-wheeled rig were heading north on I-5 at a good clip.  I drew abreast.  We waved to each other.  I’d met Phil at the rally a couple of days earlier.  I slowly passed him, a man alive, who is designing and living one highly original life

   …in other words, an artist.

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