RIP Pontiac: Brooklyn artist reflects on muscle car inspiration


After General Motors announced yesterday that it is discontinuing Pontiac and laying off a lot of people as part of its restructuring efforts, we got to wondering about the fate of that 17-foot tall Trans Am sculpture that was recently on display in Socrates Sculpture Park.

So we called up the artist, Jason Losh, at his Bushwick studio and spoke with him about how he found inspiration in a muscle car, the importance of Americana, and the dodo bird.

We start with a memory. Small town Iowa, sometime in the 80s, and young Losh is sitting in a swing on his babysitter‚s front porch when the boyfriend of one of the young ladies of the house roars up in a Trans
Am. Out pops the then-epitome of masculine cool: a guy with a mullet, wearing Oakley sunglasses and cut-off jean shorts. Young Losh was transfixed, more by the car than anything else.

“It represented something I couldn’t attain,” Losh, now 31, recalls.

Decades later, the artist, who likes to find the heritage and relevance of objects, is searching for additions to his gigantic trophy collection when he stumbles across a trophy with a Trans-Am on the top.

“It’s a piece of Americana and American life, and it’s null and void now,” he says. And that’s how he got the inspiration to build a life-size sculpture out of steel, aluminum, concrete, and a real 1978 Trans Am. He called it, “If Wishes Were Horses, Beggars Would Ride.”

“It’s not completely serious,” he explains. “It’s fun, but it allowed people to broach the subject of what’s going on right now. There’s no going back.”

Most people who visited the park understood the whimsy, as did many of the folks who left comments about the piece on Trans Am club message boards, like this one that refers to the 1907s TV show Smokey and the Bandit: “I like it,” one guy wrote. “Now if we could only see Burt Reynold’s face looking out the window, it would be perfection.”

One person, though, found it “plumb weird.”

As for the fate of the sculpture that was taken down in mid-March?

“It’s gone. The piece didn’t sell. It was destroyed and sold for scrap,” Losh says. “It went the way of the dodo.” Just like Pontiac itself.