ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
A demonstration earlier this summer in the Chicago suburb of Berwyn, Illinois. The demonstrators on bicycles were rallying in support of a sculpture at Cermak Plaza Shopping Center, a sculpture that achieved worldwide exposure in the movie "Wayne's World."
It's called "Spindle." It consists of a 50-foot high spike on which eight cars are impaled. The car at the top is a VW beetle. The one just below is a BMW that the owner of the shopping center donated to the artist Dustin Shuler back in 1989.
Now the reason that we're talking about this and the reason the cycling protesters demonstrated is that the Dustin Shuler sculpture is scheduled for removal in order to make way for a Walgreens.
Mr. Shuler joins us from Inglewood, California. How do you feel about them taking the "Spindle" away from Cermak Plaza Shopping Center?
Mr. DUSTIN SHULER (Sculptor): Well, I always knew it was a possibility after a 10-year grace period that it could be destroyed because it's in a commercial shopping center. It would have been a lot easier for me if people hadn't fallen in love with it. It would just be destroyed. Of course, I'd love to see my work continue on. But it doesn't bother me.
SIEGEL: What was the idea here with this piece that you were getting at?
Mr. SHULER: Well, I'm not a gearhead, okay, first of all.
Mr. SHULER: But cars are certainly something you notice everyday and they're probably the most dangerous thing you deal with in your life everyday as an American. And I thought they would make good grist for the mill of making art, because I basically do a form of assemblage art.
SIEGEL: You've done a series of pieces in which you skin a car that is you make a pelt, as it were, out of this skin of Porsche or a Triumph.
Mr. SHULER: Right. Mercedes. I have a police car, too. That's my favorite.
SIEGEL: And you flattened the outside of the car into a - it looks like a butterfly that's been mounted.
Mr. SHULER: Well, yeah. See - I'm glad you saw that because a lot of people don't. I grew up in Pennsylvania and I read about the fur trappers of the early part of the country. And they'd go west, you know, hunt the buffalo and they would pelt them and send them east. And I came out here. And from a project, I had a '59 Caddy. I skinned that out. And what was really cool was when David - the first thing he commissioned for me was…
SIEGEL: (Unintelligible) David Bermant was one of the owners of the shopping center and also commissioned the piece.
Mr. SHULER: Right. And he also became a great friend of mine. And he was my mentor.
Mr. SHULER: So I did this pinto to go to a shopping center - because he had shopping centers, I'd never wanted to be a shopping center artist. But I was proud to be part of his group. So then he had me do a second one. So I had two pintos. One went to Connecticut. One went to Chicago - was haulered pelts east. I thought it was hilarious. So…
(Soundbite of laughter)
SIEGEL: Pelts of cars. Now I want you to explain something to me. You've done all of these pelts of cars. You did Spindle, which is the work we're talking about. You've done a piece with a plane stuck to an office building in Los Angeles.
Mr. SHULER: Well, it was an old hotel.
SIEGEL: An old hotel?
Mr. SHULER: Yeah.
SIEGEL: You've got paintings of shipwrecks.
Mr. SHULER: Oh, yeah. I love shipwrecks.
SIEGEL: One of a blimp crashed into the ground. What is it about transportation disasters that is so attractive to you?
Mr. SHULER: I think they're romantic and they're just something that attracts me. Oh, yeah, I'm a simple guy, you know, bright, shiny things with flashlights.
(Soundbite of laughter)
SIEGEL: Well, is it gratifying to know that there are Friends of the Spindle, Save the Spindle demonstrators who've turned out?
Mr. SHULER: Yeah, I'm touched. They're breaking my heart. But they're not saving it for me, you know? They're saving for them. But I am touched by the people getting it, you know. Because a lot of people don't get my stuff when they first see it. They think art has to be beautiful, although I think that is beautiful. But the quote is beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And people think art is in the eye of the beholder. Well, now, it isn't. Art is based on intent of the artist. It doesn't make a good art and doesn't have to be beautiful art. But it's still art. It doesn't mean you have to like it.
SIEGEL: Well, Mr. Shuler, thank you very much for talking.
Mr. SHULER: Oh, my pleasure. And thank you for calling.
SIEGEL: That's Dustin Shuler, the artist who, at 1989, created Spindle - eight cars on a spike. Also known to some as the car kebab. It's now slated to be replaced by a Walgreens and there's a picture of it at npr.org.
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