Return with us now to the days of yesteryear. Americans saw the USA in their Chevrolets, and "bad" boys and "easy" girls got their kicks on Route 66. Hertz proved it could put you in the driver's seat with a daring, black-and-white television commercial featuring a hapless stunt man dangling on cables, hanging from an off-camera crane, propelled into a moving convertible. Burma-Shave's epithet popped up on the last sign of its hokey, roadside poetry, and a growing highway system nurtured glowing neon signs for new motor hotels, service stations, drive-in restaurants and drive-in movies.
Before the counterculture, America was a car culture. People ate in their cars from heavy stainless steel trays hooked on the windows. People went to the movies in their cars, with hulking, squawking speakers hooked on the windows. But backseat boinking notwithstanding, Americans couldn't really sleep on the road until the advent of motels and the camper-trailer. With a sleek, shiny, silver Airstream trailer--part bullet, part beer can--hitched on the back of the family station wagon, Americans, you might say, were completely and utterly hooked.
In a city whose adopted mascot is an American road icon--the red neon, winged horse known as Pegasus--it's especially apt for ceramic artist Alleghany Meadows to haul his "Art-stream" gallery-on-wheels to the Dallas Center for Contemporary Art. He and fellow potters Sam Harvey and Christa Assad plan a one-day stop at the Contemporary on May 1 for a clay show and sale called Art for the Table.
Meadows is too young to remember the original Airstream, but he says when he ran across a vintage model "by accident" near his home in Carbondale, Colorado, he impulsively bought it. "For a very good price, I will say," Meadows says by cell phone on the road, somewhere between here and the Rockies. "I wanted to do something interesting with it, but I didn't know what." Friends suggested he turn it into a gallery. "They egged me on," he says, "and I thought with a group of other potters, it could work."
Christened the "Art-stream," and loaded with functional ceramic art pieces made by 17 potters from across the country, Meadows' Airstream art gallery makes two road trips a year. "I'm a full-time artist," he says, "so twice a year is about all we can manage." He put a fair amount of time in on the front end of the Art-stream project, restoring the trailer himself then surveying the art scene for unusual talents and complementary objects. "I found some of the best artists in the country for this show," Meadows says. "They represent a range of generations and experience, and virtually every type of technique for working with clay." Cups, mugs, bowls, plates, teapots and pitchers are among the utilitarian objects.
Meadows, Harvey and Assad hope to make the Art for the Table exhibition a learning experience for viewers who visit the Contemporary on Saturday. "We love to talk about the pieces and the process, and introduce the other artists through their work." The overarching concept for the gallery-on-wheels, he says, is accessibility. "It's unusual to be able to see 500 pieces of handmade art of this quality in one place," he says. "The more I thought about it, the more it seemed that the Airstream, such a familiar, classic American icon, could literally and figuratively be the perfect vehicle to showcase the quintessential craft of American artists. "