Low Budget Mystic
Beginning 2019, I am gathering highly curated content for what begins as film, expand to book and culminate into a variety of art center/museum exhibitions. I will document with 4K video, AR/VR video, sound recordings, notations, and photographs of the three General Motors assembly plant closures: Hamtramck/Detroit Assembly, Oshawa Assembly (near Toronto, Ontario), and Lordstown Assembly (near Youngstown, Ohio). The project will focus on “best of” stories from former employees: Best times? Best coworkers? Best vehicle produced? I intend to speak with GM executives, union leaders, workers, management, designers, engineers, local businesses, churches, regional historical museums, and universities. The final film/book/exhibition will include stories of pride, humor, love, and devotion. While collecting stories, I will document the dismantling of the U.S. manufacturing centers and the dark times of the American Labor Union.
I dedicate this project to my father, Leonard Martin Olszewski. My father did everything right: veteran of the Korean War, labored for 35+ years, bought a house, saved money, attended church, raised a family, and paid union dues. But he didn’t survive the 1987 Shatt-R-Proof Glass Company’s plant closure. The corporation ate his pension, and one year after being let go, the stress led a heart attack and his death.
Olszewski is not one to seclude himself in his studio and has been organizing vision quests/spiritual journeys in his 1998 Cadillac Deville. Along the way, he created site-specific, interactive installations and invited total strangers to write their darkest secrets onto his “canvases” – protective car covers that Olszewski then transfigured into objects resembling ceremonial animal skins.
I am a Board Certified, Low-Budget Mystic-aka-Self Appointed Mixed Race Messiah aka The Godson of Dr. Funkenstein, traveling through North America in my 1998 Cadillac DeVille. The vehicle is my avatar and exemplifies the spirit of the American Rustbelt and has a direct connection with my father and grandfather. Cadillac is a romantic symbol of American luxury, style and elegance, and the DeVille is one the last remaining vehicles assembled in Detroit (the Motor City), Michigan.
The Mobile Spiritual Renewal Center is self-contained project carried inside the vehicle. The project acts as a soft monument or a mobile message board to connect with the local populations I will encounter throughout my journey. In recent collaborative projects, I have constructed a Caution Tape Medicine Wheel around the DeVille where people can write messages on strips of colorful fabric. After a few hours, the “Caution Tape” is covered with favorable messages and the Medicine Wheel transforms from a relatively negative message (“caution”) to a positive bulletin board. When the journey is complete, the vinyl car cover(s) and caution tape will serve as the foundation for my visual exploration and used in professional gallery/museum exhibitions.
I encourage each individual with whom I come into contact to decorate, contemplate, make marks, draw, write and/or simply spend time with the project. At the beginning of the trek, the project is a blank canvas, and each mark, sticker, dent and repair serves as a testament to the rich cultural dialog of the journey. This project is the convergence of years of dedicated research into multicultural identity and the positioning of Native American artists in a contemporary context. It is also a means of transitioning my theories about cultural identity into a tangible body of work.
As a displaced Northerner living in the American South, I am finding connections to my Northern, post-industrial roots and the fragments that have led to the demise of the once-great modern industrial city of Detroit. This project is the fifth installment in my on-going investigation into cultural identity and the ever-changing contemporary landscape.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Special thanks to the Thomas Allen Davis Charitable Fund, Anthony Bagnoli for rebuilding the 4.6 liter Northstar and Gerald Olszewski for financial assistance.
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