Along the way
In 1977 my friend Micheal and I took a friend’s brand new TR6 Triumph convertible for a test drive. It was a beautiful day and the windy back roads of Valley Forge Mountain were the perfect place to enjoy this zippy little hotrod of a car. Michael was driving the speed limit but took one of the curves and a small bump in the road just a little too fast. The car went into a spin and suddenly flipped onto its side sending the two of us flying out and landing on a small hill next to the road. In a miraculous kind of way, I landed on top of Michael’s chest with only a bruise on my leg.
"We have to stop meeting like this."
The first thing out of his mouth was “We have to stop meeting like this”. After a brief laugh and a bit of shock, we gathered ourselves and walked down the slope from where we landed. The car was totaled and our friendship with Albert (owner of the car) most likely was going to be changed forever, but in that moment I was just grateful to be alive. I looked down and saw an odd chunk of tire sitting next to the car. Feeling a bit shocked to have come out of that event practically unscathed, I picked up that tire scrap, and to this day, keep it in my car as a good luck charm. (shown below)
My Good Luck Charm, now logo
Although this seems like a good place for tire art images to have been birthed, it wasn't until 2012 that I started collecting these individual tire-creatures from the side of the road. The exposed steel belted wires combined with the weathered rubber tread were both randomly ripped and torn to make incredibly interesting configurations. Many of them evoke the aliveness of Japanese Zen calligraphy that happens instantaneously, empty of thought or preconceived idea.
I fell in love with my first collected batch and knew I was hopelessly hooked on finding more. At first I didn't know exactly why I was so attracted to them or what I would be doing with them, but I knew they made me feel alive with the promise of discovering something new. Little did I know at the time, that they would soon become a symbolic path for healing and the scrap that I found would become a logo.
Zen Calligraphy Class
To fully understand how tire parts caught my eye to begin with, I have to tell you a little bit about a weekend course I took in 2013 where I studied zen calligraphy with a world renowned Zen Chinese Calligraphic Painter. I have always been an admirer of this art form and knew it would take years of study to master, but for this weekend I just wanted to enjoy the simple pleasure of holding bamboo brushes and to feel what it was like to paint black ink on delicate white paper. As it turns out it was just as exciting and wonderful as I had hoped. The teacher was interesting and gave all of us big challenges to listen to a poem or quote and then “become empty” before we put brush to paper. I liked everything about this form of painting and understood that even though it takes years to perfect this idea of painting from emptiness, it was still really exciting to explore.
As I began to digest the weekend calligraphy class, I realized that my collection of tire parts were as much a representation of a zen moment as anything I could do with paint. These fragments of tire came from something that can only have an "empty mind" and their expression (tire fragments) were unique to the circumstances which proceeded them (heat & friction). The tire parts even evoke the same expression as a brush stroke with their dense area of black that becomes a frayed edge of steel wires, pulled apart and beautifully frazzled. These particular brush strokes were born out of one moment in time in an explosion.
There are many things that are also part of nature that are discarded as well. On one of my trips traveling through Valley Forge Park I found a giant piece of bark that fell right next to the road. An entire 10 foot piece of soaked tree bark went into my car. Even though there was many feet of it sticking out of my hatchback, it miraculously arrived to my home in one piece. Each discarded object can be examined with a fresh eye and presented in a way that makes us look at it as though it's the first time.
Tree bark drying out in the driveway before it’s big photo shoot.
"The domain of the imagination
is what we have created as humans...
as the imagination is also the place
where our metamorphosis will occur."
– Terrance McKenna
These are four of the first experiments from the zen painting classes.