Forget about going to the art gallery. On Thursday, the art gallery will be coming to you.
By Joe Eskenazi
As a young man, artist Philo Northrup navigated from Point A to Point B in a 1977 Chevy Vega. And while it’s the sort of vehicle of which one can easily imagine a mustachioed actor with tight jeans and chest hair sliding across the hood to deliver a spin kick to the leader of a kung fu army, Northrup’s was “a real piece of junk.”
“I didn’t feel like it properly reflected my identity — and, make no mistake, your car reflects your identity whether you like it or not. So, I put some zebra stripes and deer antlers on it,” he recalled.
“I got such positive feedback on it. And most artists don’t get that. They work in relative obscurity.”
Several decades later, Northrup is no longer obscure: He’s the guy with the car (in fact, that's him in the picture).
Along with Harrod Blank, he co-founded the Art Car Fest 11 years ago. On Thursday, you can catch Northrup and perhaps 100 other drivers navigating from Berkeley’s Amoeba Records to the Haight Street Amoeba. And in a city where a 6-foot-7 man with a braided beard, a loincloth and a conga drum on wheels will turn nary a head, a pilgrimage of rolling Mondrians, sharks and…whatever this is will definitely do the trick.
For those hoping to gawk at the rolling artwork, here’s the tentative Thursday schedule: The cars will likely be idling at Marina Green at around 10 a.m. prior to a jaunt over toward Fisherman’s Wharf. At around noon they’ll be parked in the Presidio parking lot of Sports Basement — this’ll probably be your best bet to see every car. Then, at around 1 p.m. the motors will fire up and the procession will cruise the Castro and over to Upper Haight before potentially hitting The Embarcadero.
You can view the full S.F., Berkeley and Santa Cruz schedule for Art Car Fest here.
When asked why he and others have devoted so much time and money into hacking apart perfectly good automobiles and creating things like this Northrup doesn’t have a grandiose answer. He does this because it’s fun, and, obviously, other people think so too.
“Art cars are out there in the normal world 365 days a year spreading love and creativity to anyone who bumps into them,” he said.
“Hundreds and thousands of people see my artwork every year.”
Northrup anticipates between 75 and 105 participants in Thursday’s promenade.
“You never know exactly how many people will show up,” he said.
“Some people break down en route and we always have others come out of the woodwork in the last minute.”
Photo: Philo Northrup's "Daisy Singer" photographed by Harrod Blank.