Copper Truck by Elliott Pujol
October 21, 2007 – August 30, 2008
Stolzer Family Foundation Gallery
Kansas State University’s Elliott Pujol has waited 30 years to get a decent campus parking place for his 1960 Dodge.
With the Sunday, Oct. 21, opening of the new wing of K-State’s Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art, Pujol’s “Copper Truck” occupied a place of pride in the outdoor Stolzer Family Foundation Gallery.
What started out as an expedient back in the 1970s became an object of fun, and, gradually, a work of art.
“We are extremely pleased to exhibit ‘Copper Truck’ as the first installation in the new Stolzer Family Foundation Gallery,” said Lorne Render, director of the Beach Museum of Art. “Elliott Pujol has created a work that is unique and will undoubtedly be of interest to our visitors.”
“The truck would not pass inspection in Philadelphia because of rust on the side,” said Pujol, who taught at Temple University in Philadelphia before joining the K-State faculty in 1973. “I had a long sheet of pewter, so I merely pop-riveted it over the rusted area. Then, when I moved to Kansas, I started applying copper to the truck.”
Pujol worked texture into sheets of copper foil, which would conform to the truck’s existing body panels. He then pop-riveted the copper into place and chemically treated it to achieve the green patina. He figures that by now, the copper and the even more expensive copper pop rivets are worth more than his original 1970 purchase price of $250.
“The truck took about 30 years to complete,” Pujol said. “It wouldn’t have been finished either if it hadn’t been for Takeshi Tamura, a graduate student helper. He finished the last bit.”
Those years haven’t been wasted. Scout troops have been an enthusiastic audience for the vehicle, which Pujol drove until about 1990. His students also had their fun, leaving notes on the windshield when they encountered it around town.
“One student even designed a fake parking ticket that said, ‘This truck is ugly and needs to be removed from the streets of Manhattan by sundown,’” he said.
Real tickets weren’t a concern: “I never got a ticket on campus; they wouldn’t touch it.”
Pujol earned his master of fine arts degree in 1971 from Southern Illinois University under the guidance of L. Brent Kington. That same year, the National Endowment for the Arts and Penland School of Crafts selected Pujol as one of the 50 outstanding craftsmen in the United States.
Each year the National Ornamental Metal Museum in Memphis selects an artist who is an expert in the field and presents a one-person retrospective of that artist’s work. Pujol was named the museum’s 2005 master metalsmith.
“Copper Truck” was too generously proportioned for the museum’s freight elevator, so it was installed in August with the help of a crane. Like other K-State parking permits, this one is only good for a year: “Copper Truck” will be on display through Aug. 31, 2008.
To park in a museum is certainly an honor, but Pujol hopes his truck is bound for an earthier fate.
“I’m trying to find a landowner along I-70, in the middle of Kansas, maybe around Lucas,” he said, because of its proximity to that iconic Kansas attraction, the Garden of Eden. There, he wants to plant the truck “so that it looks as if it sank down to its doors.”
He’ll plant sunflowers in the bed and a cedar “or a big old cottonwood” in the cab, where it would be left to grow through the truck’s sunroof. “That’s the final destination of that vehicle,” he said.