Why Make Paintings of Rusty Old Trucks?

JD King 03/05/23

I have been asked from time to time why I make so many paintings of rusty, dirty, old trucks.  It’s a good question and I have thought a lot about it.

I think these old trucks abandoned on some farm or on the back lot of a construction company are old servants of somebody’s who just can’t work up the nerve to take these things to the crusher or get somebody to cut them up with a torch.  They embody a sense of service and an American esthetic that represents a strength of days gone by that we as a culture seem to have lost.

I used to work on old farm trucks.  I was a welder and a repair guy at an equipment company when I got out of college.  I worked there for a couple of years back in the late 1970s and got a completely different kind of education.  We would do things like repair the power take off mechanism so the bed of the vehicle could raise and lower without problems.  Or we might change the oil and spark plugs and check to make sure the carburetor was clean.  We just did basic maintenance to keep the old soldiers running for another year.

I noticed the farmers would bring in these vehicles in the fall to get them spruced up for harvest and in the spring to get them ready for planting.  Many of these trucks were made in the 1950s and some were even older than that, but they all had very low mileage on the odometers.  They were only used, for the most part, twice a year.  The rest of the year they were parked someplace out of the way but also fairly visible from the road.  That’s where I now find many of them (or at least the ones that haven’t been scrapped) on my various trips around the country when I am on my way someplace either looking for new things to paint or going to some destination for other reasons.  I keep my camera right handy.

When I came over here to Columbia to finish a graduate program in painting my main focus was on the female nude.  At the time it was still possible to ask young women to pose for a painting without their clothes on and not get labeled as some kind of predator.  I had the good fortune to observe and recreate the images of several beautiful young and not so young women and learned a lot about myself and how I relate not only to women but to my whole environment.  It was a very rewarding experience and enabled me to create a foundation of understanding that I think strengthened my artistic abilities in all areas of my endeavors since.  What I did not expect was the fact that I finally got bored painting naked women.

“Well what the hell am I supposed to do now?”  Hey, how about painting some of those old trucks I used to work on?  


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