Carmel Magazine

Carmel Magazine, Spring 2018

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Page 173 of 219

C onnie doesn't get around much anymore. She's a little like "Lola" in Barry Manilow's "Copa Cabana," still in the dress she used to wear—post prime. Connie is actu- ally an automobile, a vintage van with a check- ered past, a state vehicle originally used to transport convicts. Hence her name, given to her by the artist who purchased her, stark white with a few dents, and already bearing the brunt of 195,000 miles behind her. Contemporar y blown-glass ar tist Nick Leonoff also consigned Connie to transport, but the only character he was interested in hauling was himself and a whole lotta glass cross country from his Carmel Valley home to New York. His plan was to establish himself and a pri- vate glass studio in Brooklyn and Connie was going to help him get there. The first time Connie got "tagged"—a form of street art, where graffiti artists leave their mark—Leonoff cleaned it off. The second time it happened, someone wrote "Freak" across the van, and Leonoff began to look at it not as van- dalism, but as art. "At first I was surprised," he says, "but I knew 'Freak' wasn't personal. I'd actually had a premo- nition this was going to happen. Here was this stark white van; perhaps I was asking for it. I started embracing the art." From then on, Connie became fair game. Depending on where she was parked, she took on all kinds of messages and imagery in layer upon layer of colors and compositions. Art has always been a bit of a surprise to Leonoff. He had no idea, growing up, that he would become one of the leading glass artists in the country. Born in Santa Clara and raised in Carmel Valley, Leonoff didn't see himself as an artist— Leonoff's vintage van "Connie" has been decorated by street artists across the country. At first he removed the tags, but then decided to embrace them. 172 C A R M E L M A G A Z I N E • S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 0 1 8

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