For nearly twelve years, Liz Cohen has been making art with a car. Her works speak of cultural identification, gender stereotypes, and the enduring allure of the road. Her project Bodywork began in 2002, when she purchased an East German Trabant in Berlin and brought it to Detroit, where she lives and works. Over the course of many years, and with the help of several mentors across the country, Cohen became a master mechanic and began to modify her car. After eight years of bodywork—complete with hydraulics, new parts, paint, and chrome—she transformed her humble Trabant into Trabantimino, a hybridized car that merges the Trabant with a Chevrolet El Camino.
In more recent years, with Trabantimino complete and roadworthy, Cohen has expanded Bodywork in photographs evoking the draw of the open highway and the sublime vistas of the American landscape. Shooting images of the car along the Rio Grande and Route 66, Cohen captures iconic views of the West along with the romance of the road trip. Many of these recent photographs were taken in the summer of 2013, when Cohen brought Trabantimino to compete in lowrider com- petitions. In a natural next step, Cohen entered her car in the annual lowrider festival,
Main Street Showdown Supershow in Española, New Mexico. In addition to earning a special recognition award, Trabantiminio won first place in the Compact Radical category, a prize awarded to a car with seven or more body modifications. From its modest East German beginnings, Trabantimino has achieved the ultimate cultural infiltration, while aiding its maker in her ongoing work to destabilize persistent gender roles and cultural stereotypes.
Series: From the "Bodywork" series
Image rights: Courtesy of the artist
This image was exhibited in SITE Santa Fe's SITElines.2014: New Perspectives on Art of the Americas, entitled "Unsettled Landscapes", from July 2014-January 2015.
About Liz Cohen
American, b. 1973, based in Detroit, MI, United States