Thursday, May 22, 2008

More on Bill Silveira - Jingletown Junk Artist

Jingletown is the very definition of the urban jungle: artists and businesses mixing and mingling and fighting for a piece of the American pie... fighting gentrification and homogenization and gangs and poverty and encroaching development...artists fighting the odds for their art!
But I discovered a unique place today: Automania - an urban oasis of outsider art created by a man named Bill Silveira.Today I had the unique opportunity to see his place of business and I was awestruck. While strolling around Jingletown it's hard not to notice a HUGE building
with strangely crafted window grates and unique signage.
Look up and you'll see old cars...but not just junkers. These beauties were once considered the cream of the crop.Keep walking and you'll find fronts of old cars used as planters and the hoods of police cruisers turned into awnings. Everywhere are address signs made out of rusted metal
and crowbars used in place of razor wire.
And at every turn there is a sense of humor and artistry that one hopes to find in a
hardscrabble artist's community like Jingletown.
You have to ask yourself: who's responsible for all this metalwork?
Bill Silveira is the artist behind it all.
He bought this huge building in 1992. It was dilapidated and abandoned and
had been on the market for
almost two years. He saw it's potential, though, and for
16 years it has housed his business - Automania.
Bill buys junker vehicles and either fixes them up in his cavernous garage or
strips them down in his outdoor work
space and sells them
for parts or scrap metal.
His garage is nirvana if you're a car lover. He has hubcaps, taillights, fins, headlights, bumpers and all other kinds of chrome automobile "things" from every decade hanging from the rafters and on every shelf. Anyone who acknowledges the American love affair with cars would be agape at this
collection and a real car lover would want to live
He rents this treasure trove out as props for movies, tv shows and advertisements.
Automania's outdoor space is where Bill strips the vehicles down for scrap
or parts or scavenges pieces for his art projects.
loved the twisted and rusted junk metal and the skeletons of ancient vehicles
but what caught my eye and imagination was the large wooden boat
about 20 feet overhead. Bill had scavenged it recently from the estuary which is only
a few feet from his shop. That boat is just beautiful if you ask me!
And that's not all, folks. Bill also has a respect for the place that the automobile holds in America's hearts and folklore. With that in mind he showed me his collection of vintage auto shop packaging and signage.Adjacent to his garage and workshop he has created an art space that perfectly recreates the look and feel of an old-time mechanic's garage. I felt I had stepped back in time to when my grandfather would take me to his mechanic with him. These rooms are made out of found windows and wood and sport barber poles and old-time metal chairs. Every shelf is filled with vintage signage and packaging of everything from motor oil to Roytan cigars. There was even a glass jar of plastic cars to be given away to the kids while they waited with their Dads. And dare I say I spied some vintage pin-up girl calendars to round out the experience. Bill mentioned that the Nash Bridges tv show had filmed an episode there. No surprise at all to me! His recreation of a garage looks like a movie set. Everyone knows that fixing cars is thirsty work, so Bill has created another environment within his walls. Under a small grove of redwoods he has created a "campground" - complete with a bar and 1953 Spartanette Tandem silver trailer he retrieved from Oregon.
Bill is also a self-described garage sale hound and sometime dumpster diver with great taste! Across the open
expanse of rusted metal and old cars is his living area. Again with his artfully arranged junk Bill has created several environments. One area has an outdoor shower while the other has a metal patio table and chairs -- with the butt-end of a van used as a planter. Every inch of wall space is filled with old graphics, found objects and things that others might describe as junk. But Bill has masterfully arranged them to create a feast for the eye. His own art is filled with humor and employs -
you guessed it - welding, metal and rust!
He has created a sculpture out of old vacuum cleaners and has made Mad Max-style wind machines that actually spin in the breeze. Bill likes to describe himself as a curmudgeon. But he has three dogs and two cats so he must be pretty soft-hearted really. Unfortunately just a few days ago his beloved 12 year old Rottweiller, Bubba, had to be put down. In Bill's word's "he was a great dog and he will be missed."Many thanks to Bill for letting me into his amazing art space in Jingletown.
You can see a few of his welded sculptures at the 420 Gallery during
Jingletown Open Studios June 7, 8 and 14, 15.
You can contact Bill at And check out his website Automania


Stacy Alexander said...

Whoa! You weren't kidding, Kim! What a great place!

Very insightful, well-written entry, too. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing your great Bill experience!


Stacy Alexander said...

Hey! I just found this on the Vermont CL! tee heee!


Bella said...

His patio has always been my home away from home... Ambiance Baby!!!

Cynthia said...

Bill's place....a hidden treasure

Bella said...

You will always and forever be my Knight in Black Jeans... You'll never leave my heart Billy... And I hope I never leave yours...
aka Patti

PS... I have my EYE on you... :-)