“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
My cousin Mark has a thing for the GT750, and I may have caught the bug from him. Suzuki produced the GT750 from 1971 to 1977. The bike was innovative in several ways. Some hit. Some missed. It was the first water-cooled motorcycle from Japan. For that it got the nicknames of ‘Water Buffalo’ in the US and ‘Kettle’ in Britain. Today, almost all big-displacement bikes are water cooled. It was a two stroke. Today, almost no bikes are two stroke. It was also a triple; an early member of a small and still quirky club.
The engine is the focal point of any motorcycle. This one’s got bigger-than-life character.
Craig Vetter and Mystery Ship number 4 with collaborator Fujio Yoshimura on left
Dream 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.
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.
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.
new-media guru and art coach
Seth Godin says we’re all artists…but art isn’t something we hang on the wall. Art is what we do when we’re truly alive. Art is seizing new ground, making connections between people and ideas, working without a map. Art is what it is to be human (from “The Icarus Deception”).
Annie Dillard wrote, “By creating things, by thinking up new combinations, we counteract the flow of entropy…A shepherd on a hilltop who looks at a mess of stars and thinks, “There’s a hunter, a plow, a fish,” is making mental connections that have as much real force in the universe as the very fires in those stars themselves.”
I left the corporate world twelve years ago with the intention to make art in a beautiful place. I built a studio in the San Juan Islands. I learned to paint and to cast bronze.
…I’ve also been messing with a small fairing
for my BMW R1200R
According to Godin, the house I’m slowly building is also sculpture. Give and take in a business meeting is jazz. Riding with keen attention to the contour of the approaching pavement is dance.
Motorcycle “Art” A bunch of photos follow, some embarrassing, showing the evolution of my first fairing project: