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Kiel Rucker

The Glass House

Rick Rojas Turns a 1975 Chevy Impala into a Piece of Art


I wrote a piece a few years ago about the possible objectivity of art, about whether or not statements such as “objective art” or “objectively artistic” really even made sense. The unique life experience of each individual is necessarily going to affect one’s perception of what is artistic, beautiful, or otherwise. It was the result of a stream-of-consciousness type of writing about what all art might have in common across all mediums: drawing, painting, music, sculpture, dance — everything.

At the end of it, I came to the conclusion that all art and creative expression can essentially be described as the result of the division of a preexisting space — a kind of archetypal pallet. For the painter there is the paper or canvas, for the sculptor there is the uncut stone, for the musician there is the silence, for the dancer there is the stage or street. The artist manifests his or her art by moving through pure, previously untouched space, using his or her tool of choice to leave a record of these movements in a given medium, rendering a work of art.

In the case of Rick Rojas, the pallet was a 1975 Impala “GlassHouse” and his brushes consisted of a few hundred feet of tape, a box of razors, a variety of paints, and the guidance of a well-known custom car painter that goes by the name “Hanko.”

Rick has been working in, on, and around hotrods and custom cars since he was old enough to walk. His father always had a project in the garage of their Santa Barbara home, and Rick was always right there learning and absorbing everything he could. His work has been featured in Traditional Rod and Custom Illustrated and he’s even participated as part of the crew on the TLC series Overhaulin’, where he got to experience first-hand the clash of the politics of a reality TV show and the work about which the show is centered.

As you might expect, the people you see on-camera are usually those that have done the least work on the car and are oftentimes less qualified despite a degree they may have from a school they may have attended. Not to bash vocational schools and degrees and such (there is always room for learning and a new perspective) but I’ll choose a guy with years of hands-on knowledge and experience over a degree-waver every time.

For those who have never witnessed a custom paint job in progress, the above description about art being essentially a creative division of space is probably a good way to think about it. Even though an amazing custom paint job is the final result of the effort, the paint is almost a secondary element in the process. Before new paint ever touches the surface, the lines are taped-out and precision-cut with razors to leave those long flawless lines and layered patterns seen in these photos. The pictures in this issue were shot intermittently over a period of about 10 days…and I still haven’t taken the final shots. So I’m going to include a full “finished-shoot” on the ISA blog for those who want to see the finished Glass House. It’s going to look crazy in the full light of the sun.

I’ve always thought that the atmosphere in which an artist works plays a key role in the creation process of the work itself. Every day I went to shoot this Impala, without fail, one of Rick’s friends (or three or four) would stop by and see what was happening. Work on the car would rarely stop while conversations of previous jobs, past shows, and old stories about family and friends filled whatever space was left in the garage after this beast of a car and all the people had piled in. It was alive. There was no time-clock and no rules other than the unspoken understanding that you were to stay out of the way of Rick and Henko while they did their thing.

To see more photos from this shoot, check out Kiel's blog here.

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