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Carhenge: Ever heard of it?

Nebraska’s version of Stonehenge

Last week, my husband and I took a three-day trip to Mount Rushmore from southwest Missouri. On the way to and from, we ventured off the beaten path to see some less-visited sites. One of those was Carhenge.

Can you guess what it is? Yep, you’re right. It’s a Stonehenge made of cars.

At left, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Stonehenge in England and at right, Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska.

And believe it or not, it’s been on the back-burner of our mental bucket list of places to see for several years now. So you can imagine our delight last Thursday when we learned (thanks to Google Maps) that we would be within a few miles of Carhenge when we passed through Alliance, Nebraska (pop. 8,500) later that afternoon.

Carhenge
Another shot

I first heard of Carhenge right around the time I graduated from the University of Kansas in 1988. The project’s completion in 1987 made the news back then in the Midwest for a little while. Then gradually, the news died down, and it became another one of those odd-ball sights the Great Plains is known for.

…y’know, an odd-ball sight that attracts 90,000 people each year and appears on the home page of its official owner, the city of Alliance, Nebraska.

Let’s get to it. Here’s a quick video of me simply rotating the camera around the central site:

The cars were at one time left in their original paint colors. But I would imagine that over time, the paint began to wear and/or the metal finishes began to rust, so a “Stonehenge gray” color was eventually applied to all. Works for me.

Here’s a photo of the site before the cars were painted gray.

Carhenge before it was painted gray.
You can buy this postcard in a very sparse information center/gift shop for 79 cents. That’s cool.

Some Facts About Carhenge:

Carhenge design versus Stonehenge design
Henges by Dan Lindsay | Wikimedia Commons License

More facts:

  • Some of the pits that hold the upright cars are five feet deep.
  • The cars that form the arches are welded to form a complete structure.
  • Reinders built Carhenge as a memorial to his father and while living in England studied Stonehenge to learn its size and proportions.
  • During the solar eclipse of August 2017, the path of totality (the path that would experience a total eclipse) passed right over Carhenge. Four thousand people, including the governor, viewed the eclipse from the site.
  • Carhenge won a Travelers’ Choice Award from Trip Advisor in 2020.
Carhenge
Another shot
Carhenge
Trucks were also used to form the monumental sculpture.
Carhenge
Needless to say, Carhenge is an unusual experience.

The information sign below tells about the main Carhenge circle and some outlying sculptures made of found objects, farm implements, and auto parts.

Carhenge informational sign
The sign

Sign here, please.

While you can walk right up to the main sculpture, don’t write anything on the cars. If you feel the need to leave your mark, do it on this white car placed here specifically for that purpose.

Autograph car at Carhenge
Sign here, please. To the right of the autograph car is an assemblage also made by Jim Reinders called “The Fourd Seasons,” inspired by Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. The sculpture includes all Ford automobiles and represents the four seasons of Nebraska.

Here’s another example of some of the outlying pieces around Carhenge. This is called Carnestoga after the old Conestoga wagons that at one time were the High Plains vehicle of choice.

Carnestoga at Carhenge
Carnestoga
Carhenge from a distance
Here’s one final shot as we left Carhenge.

Don’t forget to visit the small information center/gift shop at the site to drop in a donation and buy a souvenir. They have t-shirts, postcards, key rings, cold drinks, and a few snacks et al to make your Carhenge visit complete.

The bucket list

I can now cross Carhenge off my bucket list. If Carhenge isn’t on your bucket list, add it pronto. And then get thee to Alliance, Nebraska to see this funky testament to creativity and cars.


On our way to Mount Rushmore, we also took a quick two-hour tour of De Smet, South Dakota to see the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Homes. I’ll do a short post about that soon. Thanks for reading!
While you’re here, check out another post that celebrates the culture and art of the Midwest.
Categories
Art & Architecture US (NYC) US Travel

Stop, Gawk, and Drool

The NYC subway’s newest mosaic stunner: Funktional Vibrations

top
The outside wall of Funktional Vibrations above the escalator at the main part of the station. | Photo: M. Yung

You’re a lost cause.

When you push against the turnstile to exit the subway at 34th St.-Hudson Yards in New York, you can’t help it. The brilliant cobalt of Funktional Vibrations snags your attention and stops you in your tracks. That’s okay. In an hour or so, this last stop on the 7 line will be bustling and you’ll have to get out of the way. But for now, go ahead and gawk.

After all, you came all the way over here, one day before parts of the Hudson Yards complex even officially open, to see the latest and one of the largest additions to the public art collection of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). Funktional Vibrations is a mammoth mosaic (2,788 square feet, according to artnet news) that fills the ceiling of the station’s mezzanine and then oozes outside onto the wall surfaces above escalators.

Created and designed by fiber artist Xenobia Bailey, Funktional Vibrations riots on a field of cobalt blue within its dome.

mezzanine
Funktional Vibrations in the mezzanine. | Photo: M. Yung

It’s colorful. Abstract. Lava lampy.

Kaleidoscopic in color and pattern. And you notice there’s an Atlantic vinyl record, too, tucked into the design. (It’s the black dot on the left side of the photo below.)

A closer look. | Photo: M. Yung

To your eye, Funktional Vibrations pulsates with life. “Bailey sees the work as speaking to the universal idea of creation and has created artwork that vibrates with energy,” according to an MTA website article. “(Bailey) refers to her accumulation of materials as in the tradition of African-American art—reflected in the music of the 60’s she grew up with—and its material culture and design, where one made do with what was available and made it into something new and wonderful.”

So that explains the Atlantic record, you think… an earlier era’s musical relic retrofitted for contemporary times. It fits perfectly—seamlessly even—into the mandala-like charms and spheres that vibrate all shape-shifty and cloud-like across the glass mosaic cosmos.

Bailey, originally an ethnomusicologist (here’s what that means!), worked in costume design before transitioning to fibers, specifically crochet, as noted by Manhattan’s Museum of Arts and Design. She is known best for her colorful crocheted hats and mandala design. Funktional Vibrations evokes that aesthetic, which observes African, Native American, and 70’s funk motifs.

So how does an artist who specializes in fibers transform her designs onto glass tile? With the assistance of mosaicist Stephen Miotto of Miotto Mosaic Studio in Carmel, NY. In fact, Miotto’s team have helped many artists selected by MTA’s Arts and Design Program craft and install their mosaic interpretations.

tesserae
A detail shot of the outer wall surface. | Photo: M. Yung

You learn later that Funktional Vibrations includes a total of three—not two—mosaic installations by Bailey. You vow to return another time to photograph the third. For now, you revel in the vibrancy, the touch of the human hand, and the simple rush of this subway stunner.

me
Funktional Vibrations was worth the search. | Photo: K. Yung

 

I went to New York City with my daughter in 2019 for spring break. I’m still tripping out over the mosaics (and the tile work in general) that adorn the entire subway system. How did I not know about this underground art museum? Follow my blog for more posts on subway artworks.