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Nave Museum artist has history with art cars (video)

By Jessica Rodrigo
May 16, 2013 at 12:16 a.m.

Carter Ernst, 59, of Houston, with her art pieces that are part of the exhibit "Fur Bitten" at the Nave Museum in Victoria.

IF YOU GO

•  WHAT: Fur Bitten and Manhattan Art Program Art Cars

• WHEN: Noon-4 p.m. Saturday

• WHERE: The Nave Museum, 306 W. Commercial St.

• COST: Free all day Saturday

• FOR MORE INFORMATION: Visit navemuseum.com or call 361-575-8228.

The Nave Museum will come to life with life-sized and some larger than life pieces of art from Houston-based artist Carter Ernst.

Her exhibit, "Fur Bitten," will open Saturday along with the Victoria Art Car Parade and remain open through June 23.

Ernst's work combines animals and nature with the use of synthetic and natural materials to build sculptures, painting and art cars.

She recently sat down to talk about the exhibit.

There are a lot of dog pieces in this exhibit. Why did you choose dogs as the subject for your artwork?

They're my constant companions, and I can't imagine being without them. I didn't have any children, so they're kinda like my kids. I tried to stop doing them. I've said, 'OK, let's do logs.'

It's not really a conscious decision to do dogs. Originally, it just was a natural thing for me. When I was in school, I would take my dog to school with me, and he'd be in the drawing room with me. That's the way it progressed. I didn't choose them; they chose me.

Your use of man-made fabrics is a shared theme with many pieces that mimic things from nature - dogs, birds, log - have you seen a lot of changes in the availability and variety of materials you use now then when you started?

What I see is that it gives you more opportunities having all these fabulous materials to explore the different varieties. That's very exciting. It's kinda like paints, but it's fabrics. I'm not really trying to make a statement so much, it's just that it works and I reflect on it. It makes me think about how we can't really stop where we're going as a culture and in our development, but we want to be aware of nature. My creating these things is sometimes my way of holding onto it.

You started out as painter and studied sculpting when you returned to school for your masters. Do you combine the two techniques in your work?

Yes. I do use a little bit of paint on the three-dimensional paintings. And then one of the logs, it's actually all a sort of gold color and the rest is watercolor and acrylic medium sprayed on the top.

The show opens the same time as the Victoria Art Car Parade. Do you have a connection with art cars?

My connection was probably that I came in touch with them from driving one for 20 years. I always drove old cars, and the best thing to do with an old car to make it feel like an exciting car is to turn it into an art car.

What did your art car look like?

The very first one was called the Ooze Mobile because it was a collaboration. I wouldn't have been this brave, but what happened was the friend who sold me the Datsun 210 said, 'I will sell it to you for $500 if you let us turn it into an art car.' I said, 'OK, and we both work on it?' And she said, "yeah." I asked about getting other people to work on it and pretty soon, anybody who wanted to work on it was working on it. We had about seven people contributing to it.

That sounds like fun. So what did you do to your portion of the art car?

My take was a little bit more painterly on it. There were some mirrored pieces and things like that. Jackie Harris - the person who sold me the car - she went crazy. As soon as I said, 'OK,' the next thing I see is this huge 44D bra sticking off the side of my car with foam pouring out of it and vacuum cleaner hoses, and then everybody started attaching things to the car that were crazy, like a big ironing board. I had to drive this thing - it was my car.

What was it like driving it?

The first time I got on the freeway was pretty scary. A policeman did come up behind me, and so I thought I was getting pulled over, and he sped up, turned on his bullhorn and said, 'Lady, if you're going to drive on the freeway, you're going to have to pick up your pace.' They just started laughing and drove off. I was going about 45 mph because I was worried things were going to fly off.

How many art cars have you owned?

I had the Ooze Mobile, Kitsch Cargo, Card Car - one covered in playing cards - VaVoom Vinyl and the Mica car. So about five.

What do you do with the cars when you are done driving them?

For a long time, the Ooze Mobile was a doghouse. Very fitting, huh? We just had the windows down, and the dogs were really good. They could just jump in and out of it, and they always liked riding in it anyway. It was a great doghouse for a long time.

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