Although they decrease in number with each passing year, classic cars from the 1950s and '60s are part of America's cultural landscape. They're icons of an time when we had just defeated the biggest threats the world had ever known.
The futurism seen in automotive design, art and architecture of that era are pretty good indications that on top of the nation's brewing social unrest, there was a sense of optimism. This is often reflected in the classic car art of the era, and of future artists looking back on the era. What's the most beautiful car-on-canvas painting reflecting this moment in America's existence.
Our nominee is this painting from Danny Heller, a 30-year-old painter from Southern California's San Fernando Valley. He wasn't even alive until the 1980s.
But growing up in Southern California, where mid-century architecture and cars are common, he began to notice that there was something special about that simple space age aesthetic. Houses are low and long, and because of the region's dry, sunny weather many of the cars from that era are still on the road, having escaped the fate of rust belt body rot.
"L.A. and the San Fernando Valley have a car culture. Those old cars were all around me when I was growing up," Heller told us. "My dad had a stingray 'Vette and an old Lincoln, the neighbors had a Chevy Bel Aire. You could drive by Bob's Big Boy in Burbank on cruise night and there would be classic cars in the parking lot."
So when he began painting mid-century architecture and design as his main subject matter, cars were a natural part of the scenery. Painting that scene is a way for him to preserve not just mid-century design, but it's version of hope for the future: Better living through good design. Big windows. Lots of light. Big, space age cars. Enough to go around.
Southern California has changed a lot since rocket tipped Oldsmobiles and suburban ranch homes were in vogue. Our vision of the future has shifted. Although the trappings of that time are still around, like any flotsam of a bygone time they're disappearing. Hipsters love '50s furniture and old, beer-bellied men are fond of finned Detroit iron, but the rest of the world has moved on. Heller thinks his waning, and in many cases dilapidated, SoCal Golden Suburban Utopia Era surroundings are beautiful, and wants to preserve some of it for posterity.
Take a look at Heller's paintings. At first glance, they almost look like photographs. But how does seeing old cars and Palm Springs homes in paint change the way you see them? Does it freeze them in time or do they age instantly? Do they become more or less alive? Has the Golden State dream portrayed in Heller's paintings disappeared completely, or have we reshaped it somehow?
Please share your images from that era and of that era and tell us what they mean to you.
Image credit: Danny Heller