A car engine shuddered and came to a halt in the searing July heat Friday afternoon outside Santini Export Packing Corporation near the Houston Ship Channel. The dead battery was not a problem, though, as the 1989 Oldsmobile Delta 88 had reached the end of its journey in Houston.
But this model was not headed to the junkyard. Instead, Rebecca Bass' art car, "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," superimposed with a collage of ephemera and tchotchkes honoring the Beatles, was headed for its maiden voyage to the Ripley's Museum in Mexico City.
A native of West Texas, Bass arrived in Houston at the age of 19, attended what she jokingly calls "Cougar High" (University of Houston) and has participated in the Orange Show's Art Car Parade for 21 years. For one semester a year, she partners with an HISD school to design and build a revolutionary addition to the parade. "Lucy" was created in collaboration with Sam Houston High School students.
"Music seems to really turn kids on," is how Bass explains the choice of a Beatles theme for the car. Her students were only vaguely acquainted with the band's music, referring to the discography as the territory of their grandparents - but once Bass screened the film "Help!" for the students, they immediately caught on.
Myriad references to Beatles lyrics envelope the car's interior, façade, and often poke into the space surrounding the vehicle. Viewers can spot such manifestations as "marmalade skies," "I am the walrus, I am the egg man," and "Mother Superior jumping the gun."
"I like to do music themes," Bass says, "because they're recognizable and incorporate a little bit of history."
Bass' art cars are also displayed at the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art, American Visionary Art Museum, and museums in Kuala Lumpur, Frankfurt, Austin and Chicago. The Ripley's Museum in Mexico City is designed to resemble a medieval castle - the perfect dose of kitsch to match "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds."