As I was walking down the 200 block of 11th Street last week I nearly stumbled as I got an eyeful of a VW Beetle parked on the street. It brought to mind to a visit to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival a few years back when they had an amazing caravan truck on display for their Silk Road exhibit. Here on the Hill is a piece of art on wheels that’s a fantastic blend of anthropological treasure out of National Geographic and an extremely arty Harley Davidson. Owner Lylla Childress was thrilled to answer our questions and promote the artist.
Tell me about how you met the artist.
I met Ghulam Sarwar through a mutual friend Dee. Dee sells imported home furnishings from India at a booth at Eastern Market on Saturday/ Sunday. Dee and myself share a common childhood upbringing in India during the 60s plus we both speak hindi/urdu. I regularly visit Dee’s booth and recently found a side table painted by Ghulam on sale. This is when Dee introduced me to Ghulam and I spoke with him about his art skills. I learned that Ghulam is a truck painter from Peshawar, Pakistan - he had done some art on Dee’s van which I thought was cool so I asked him if he would be interested in painting my Beetle.
What’s your favorite part of the design?
I love all of it — the fantastic use of bright colors and the intricate designs that remind me of the moghul inlay work done on the Taj Mahal in Agra. I also requested lots of flowers, birds, a peace sign and the Taj Mahal – they all came out looking beautiful. The whole car is a great piece of art – I don’t think I’ll ever be able to sell my car now – its so original and unique. My daughter, Natalie, already has mentioned she’d love to inherit it.-
What’s the best reaction you’ve gotten from onlookers?
The kids are the best – they get so excited, squeely and wiggly when they see the car – it’s so cute. Adults also love it – I have had people of all ages look at the car with so much joy – young people yell out “Cool car” Pakistani Taxi drivers stop me and ask if Ive had the car painted in Pakistan and tell me they love it. People are coming up to it and taking a lot of pictures with it – the tourists just love it too. Its nice to see the painted beetle makes so many people smile.
You mentioned having some anxiety about the bold statement the car makes, but you’re certainly not shy. Tell me about that.
I was a bit concerned about how some people think its crazy, wacky of me to do this; some folks can be rather conservative about this kind of public expression. But I decided that its a lovely piece of art and if some people don’t like it, they don’t have to look at it. I love it, and I did it for myself so its OK. It has made so many people smile and brought them joy – that’s been great.
And I hate to be so crass, but can you tell me how this amazing paint job cost?
No worries – it cost me $1400.