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Here's a Snow Tractor Getting Turned into a Massive Light Sculpture

“Wrapping shit in gold ain’t an easy task," Lisa Solberg tells The Creators Project.
May 5, 2015, 8:00pm
NIGHT RIDER. Images courtesy the artist

Decked out with bright paint, lights, and a weath of her spitfire personality, Lisa Solberg's tricked-out snowmobile-meets-bulldozer, NIGHT RIDER, is one of the most patently badass projects we've seen come out of Powder Mountain's artist-in-residency program, the Summit Series. She calls on the ancient Japanese tradition of Dekotora (OK, it was started in the 70s), the art of fixing a small carnival's worth of flashing lights, charicatures, chandeliers, and anything else you can dream of to large trucks. Solberg, who hates the word "artist," decided to defy any expectations set by her previous paintings, installations, and sculptures, and transform the massive Snowcat vehicle into a Dekotora-worthy funhouse on wheels.

After a Bacchanalian week at the Sundance Festival, Solberg practically stumbled upon the Summit Series residency. “Despite the crisp air and bluebird day, my toxin-filled body put me through so many roller coasters I don't even know how I came out alive,” she admits to The Creators Project. Despite her dazed state, the artist become instantly enamored with the scene. “I decided to get involved because I loved these guys that I met, they were so cool and serious and smart. I wanted to be a part of whatever was going on and put my mark on it.”

She joined Summit’s Artist-in-Residency program, and perhaps due to her previous work with  large-scale installations, was approached to apply her skills to a decrepit Snowcat named Stinky. Hungry to try a hand at her very own, rough and tumbled Dekotora, Solberg hatched her “plan of attack,” aiming to sweep in with enthusiasm and armful of gold enamel paint and get Phase 1 completed in record time. “It was, as most projects are, a lot more complicated than that,” she says. “Wrapping shit in gold ain’t an easy task with a certain budget.”

As Phase 1 progressed into Phase 2—slowly but mostly surely—Stinky traded his rugged shell for a sleek coating of chrome vinyl, tattooed with streams of text and imagery. The rambling stream of pin-striped consciousness picks up from where Solberg’s inner dialogue left off, in her 2012 installation,  STALKER. As Solberg describes it: “Minimalism with a twist of psychotherapy and existentialism.”

Stinky’s sculptural challenges were not exhausted, however, and once the artist moved her work into the Snowcat’s rusty interior she felt, once again, daunted. “You can’t just whip that kind of work out, it takes time, and with more and more time it only gets better. Patience is virtue is what I had to keep telling myself. I couldn’t have gotten it done without some serious assistance from the Powder Mountain shop guys and my esteemed assistant, Sam.”

In the current stage of her project, after hours toiling in draining high altitude—the mountain’s maintenance shop boasts an elevation of around 8,900'—Solberg is finally ready to equip NIGHT RIDER with an authentic Dekotora get-up. “First I have to go to Japan and headhunt the right mechanic who specializes in this stuff and convince him to come back to execute the project with me. I’m crazy excited about this being delivered, its going to be one of a kind.”

Once Solberg finishes her work, however, she'll be leaving to work on her “strip club performance based installation” Mister Lee’s in LA, while Night Rider will stay behind to roam Powder Mountain for evermore. “This machine has so much history, it’s practically older than me,” explains the artist. “I had to do it justice, and at this point I know every centimeter of it- scrubbing this, painting that, banging my head on the top bar, slamming my knee on the corner of the metal seat, etc. I have a relationship with this thing now.” But, she concludes, “Stinky’s home was forever Powder Mountain - the most beautiful serene setting with an abundance of wildlife and mystery.”

Click here to learn more about Lisa Solberg.

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