Collectibles

It is many things: machine and canvas. Pop art pastiche and antiwar statement. A heap of scrap metal and a fine art gem worth $1.1 million, according to art appraiser David Streets.

It spends most of its time in a downtown warehouse, but people have spotted it cruising downtown. Steven Vaughan, a former Hollywood filmmaker and Manhattan sunglasses mogul, spent more than a year creating it, and he even trademarked the name: ArtRod 001.

Where it now sits says a lot. At one end of Vaughan's The End studio, on Third Street adjacent to the former Foam City, hangs a hyperrealist depiction of Kate Middleton and Prince William. The angel of Princess Diana floats behind the royal couple, anchoring a background consisting of the Union Jack, milky puffs of clouds and outward-shooting heavenly light, with a yellow beam hanging over and across William's shoulder like a scarf.

At the other end is a garage/auto shop that will excite any car collector. Here is a 1975 classic Honda motorcycle with a newly painted front fairing. Take a look at the 1931 Ford Model A, its rust-red engine out, wheels mounted on wooden carts, its interior gutted and its finish still a solid, Fordist black. "It could be an ArtRod 002. We'll see," Vaughan said.

Artist Steven Vaughan with ArtRod 001 Monday, July 28, 2014, in his downtown Lafayette studio. Vaughan created the anti-war themed car using a 1970 Saab. The car will make its Los Angeles debut next week.Buy PhotoArtist Steven Vaughan with ArtRod 001 Monday, July 28, 2014, in his downtown Lafayette studio. Vaughan created the anti-war themed car using a 1970 Saab. The car will make its Los Angeles debut next week. (Photo: John Terhune/Journal & Courier John Terhune/Journal & Courier)Buy Photo Fullscreen
Artist Steven Vaughan with ArtRod 001 Monday, July 28, 2014, in his downtown Lafayette studio. Vaughan created the anti-war themed car using a 1970 Saab. The car will make its Los Angeles debut next week. Artist Steven Vaughan talks about the inspiration for ArtRod 001 Monday, July 28, 2014, in his downtown Lafayette studio. Vaughan created the anti-war themed car using a 1970 Saab. The car will make its Los Angeles debut next week. The distinctive grill of ArtRod 001 by artist Steven Vaughan Monday, July 28, 2014, in Vaughan's downtown Lafayette studio. Vaughan created the anti-war themed car using a 1970 Saab. The car will make its Los Angeles debut next week. The hood and grill of ArtRod 001 by artist Steven Vaughan Monday, July 28, 2014, in Vaughan's downtown Lafayette studio. Vaughan created the anti-war themed car using a 1970 Saab. The car will make its Los Angeles debut next week. An image of a superhero graces the driver's side door of ArtRod 001 by artist Steven Vaughan Monday, July 28, 2014, in Vaughan downtown Lafayette studio. Vaughan created the anti-war themed car using a 1970 Saab. The car will make its Los Angeles debut next week. An image of an angel fired from a cannon on the passenger side door of ArtRod 001 by artist Steven Vaughan Monday, July 28, 2014, in Vaughan downtown Lafayette studio. Vaughan created the anti-war themed car using a 1970 Saab. The car will make its Los Angeles debut next week. An image of Marilyn Monroe flashing the peace sign on the trunk of ArtRod 001 by artist Steven Vaughan Monday, July 28, 2014, in Vaughan downtown Lafayette studio. The trunks opens electrically. Vaughan created the anti-war themed car using a 1970 Saab. The car will make its Los Angeles debut next week.
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And there it sits at the center, covered now in paper as Vaughan puts on the finishing touches but still overflowing with bold personality: the ArtRod. It's slated to be part of a hot rod show near Los Angeles in August, then shown in Greenwich, Connecticut and finally in Lafayette at the Gallery Walk on Sept. 19.

It's a classic 1970 Saab, a Model 96 factory original and looking nothing like it — or any car for that matter. The front is warlike, with the metal hull and gritty green of a tank. The hood resembles a fighter jet. Painted on the sides are clowns, gas masks, angels, superheroes and nuclear bombs going off. A palm tree's silhouette bows back from the explosion. On the back is Marilyn Monroe with a peace sign and stenciled prints modeled after the rococo floral wallpapers of the Victorian age.

"I liked Roy Lichtenstein's and Andy Warhol's art cars," Vaughan said. "But I wanted to do an art car where the artist designed the car itself, rather than just paint something given to them, with hot-glued shells that are literally falling off as they drive on the road. I wanted people who can weld to work on this."

Vaughan used fine art brushes to paint the more detailed images on the car, which includes a miniature scene inspired by "Dr. No" complementing each headlight. The images, Vaughan said, are meant to make viewers question Russia, the U.S. or any country sporting a gung-ho military mentality.

"It's an aggressive statement about power and the lust for power," he said. "By the time you get to the back, it's all about peace and love. That's where we need to go."

ArtRod is also a marvel in car customization. It's half Bonneville Salt Flats speedster, half armored military vehicle, a split-window coup with suicide doors, metal seats, a mechanized trunk and aircraft starters and toggles inside.

"Everything on this car was next to impossible to find," Vaughan said. "Even the Swedes had trouble finding parts. I had to essentially make everything myself."

Vaughan has led a tripartite career. He graduated from DePauw University, then studied commercial filmmaking at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. He's not afraid to drop a few names when talking about his stint in L.A. during the '90s as a television commercial director: "Michael Bay was right behind me in school. He decided to do the same thing I had done," he said. "My parking spot was next to Dick Clark's … I started Tyra Banks career … I worked with Cindy Crawford and for George Lucas."

Wanting full ownership of his products, Vaughan moved to Manhattan and started a line of tinted, rimless sunglasses. After that, he reignited his passion for fine art and soon became a prominent hyperrealist Pop art painter.

While commercials are a flash in the pan, he said, paintings and inventions like the ArtRod 001 carry the weight of permanence. Vaughan said he has no regrets.

"What I'm doing now will last forever," he said. "That's the thing about fine art. It lives on."

Eric Killorin

Sun Aug 03 2014 15:07:49 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

where's the super like button for this one!!

Sun Aug 17 2014 18:22:08 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

Mariah Coberly

OLYMPIAN CARS - MIDDLEBURY VERMONT USA
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