California Pit Stop:
“Never seen one of these before.”
What charmed life awaits him
I Wish I had That Swing In My Back Yard:
Who could own such a magnificent thing?
Maintaining the Love Affair:
In love with life
Down at the Western Auto Store:
Can’t wait till the shift is over
These prints are for sale on
> Legacy Motors Art Gallery
You get home from work. Traffic was predictably irritating, but some cell-phone idiot cut you off – not once, but twice. Twice! You couldn’t even get a good song on the car radio. Add to that some new guy at the office was thoughtlessly rude to you. “Nothing personal” he said.
You catch a glimpse of yourself in the hallway mirror… you’ve got the expression of Ralph Kramden after a long day on the bus. Your eyes sweep the room and fall on a scene in some outpost in California. A magnificent red Ferrari has pulled into a lonely gas station. A puzzled worker doesn’t quite know what to make of it. The glamorous car seems to have suddenly found itself in a Norman Rockwell painting.
You let your mind transport yourself there. In one instant you know what it’s like to be the snazzy owner of the car. In the next, you think of yourself as the befuddled worker. This picture has taken over your feelings through your imagination. You start to feel warm toward the human race again and captivated by Ferrari elegance.
The picture is “California Pit Stop” by Ken Eberts. You can’t talk about Eberts without getting some acknowledgements out of the way. He is arguably the father of automotive fine art, having been doing it full time since 1969. Yeah, since before we first walked on the moon. He is a founder of the prestigious Automotive Fine Art Society, president since its inception. These are the folks that have their own giant tent at Pebble Beach Concours every year.
Over 1,000 of his original paintings hang in museums and private collections around the world.
Having mentioned Norman Rockwell before, it’s a fair guess that Ken’s paintings derive some inspiration from that artist celebrated for his affectionate and vivid portraits of America in the middle of the last century.
One of Rockwell’s teachers taught him to “step over the frame and live in the picture.” To be sure, most of Ken Eberts paintings follow that edict. Every picture seems to breathe with a story line. Maybe we don’t know about the facts in the story – what happens immediately before or after the moment of the picture – but we feel the emotions as if we were living it.
In his painting “Dad's Home,” a 1940 Buick arrives home – right on time we suspect – to the coziest home ever imagined. Even if we ourselves are trapped in a world of microwavable Healthy Choice meals and cells phones with goofy ring tones, we surely revel in the charming life captured forever inside this picture.
Rockwell liked to juxtapose youth and old age as if to make the point good times together could overcome any generational gap. In the paintings by Ebert I like the most, he places glamorous and swank cars in remote, almost rustic settings. Like in “California Pit Stop” and in “I Wish I Had that Swing in My Back Yard.”
In “Swing,” it’s as if you lived in a one stop sign town and happened to glance out your window. There it is! The opulent design of a black ’58 Lincoln Continental. Where is this land schooner headed? Some place fun and glamorous for sure. Can I come? In these paintings of glamorous cars in rustic settings, Ken is emphasizing the dream status of these cars, reminding us how the car became the embodiment of American striving.
Rockwell showed our unique American character in hundreds of individual vignettes. He painted the scenes and to this day we recognize ourselves in them. Eberts also portrays our American character in a knowing way by using the automobile the same way Rockwell would make all of America look like one small town.
In “Maintaining the Love Affair,” Eberts transports us back to 1954. There’s a bit of a line at the Texaco station, giving us the opportunity to take in a tableau of characters, most prominent of which – center stage, actually – are two jaunty couples in an equally jaunty 2 tone ’54 Olds. Look at this painting and tell me this doesn’t capture the American spirit of carefree exuberance!
In “Down at the Western Auto Store,” it’s a picture perfect summer day. In the shade, apart from the customers’ cars sits a Ford T Hot Rod. Maybe it belongs to one of the sales clerks inside, his pride and joy. Did you have a car you loved like that – couldn’t wait till work was over to get back in it? Does this painting let you revisit the earnestness of your youth every time you look at it?
While Ken’s paintings conjure up feelings we all drink from, the story I weave in my head as I look at them will be different from yours. Better yet, the story you see in one of his artworks today may be different a week from now. That is one of the great truths about art: you see more every time you look at it.
While almost all Ken’s originals are sold, limited edition prints and posters are available in our gallery.