Melissa Merli: Artwork on wheels


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One of the coolest artists in C-U is Christopher Carl, who after getting his master's degree in landscape architecture at the University of Illinois decided to stick around.

He and his equally talented wife, artist Meredith Foster, live in Urbana and have mounted some of the more interesting and adventuresome exhibits I've seen.

One of Carl's projects came to Market at the Square in Urbana the last Saturday of June and will return the last Saturday of every month.

It's the Art Truck, an old Frito-Lay van that Carl and friends refurbished.

"The truck is part of the Urbana Land Arts Mobile Exhibition Series, which will include six artists each having one month to create an installation in the 21-foot truck," Carl told me.

The project is funded by a city of Urbana arts grant and again I would like to say I'm happy to live in a city that supports the arts.

The Art Truck for June was curated by Tim Peters, a graphic artist and writer whose essay about the David Foster Wallace short story "Good Old Neon" was published May 4 at the Los Angeles Book Review website. The link:

Wallace, of course, grew up in Urbana and is considered one of the best writers of his generation, particularly of experimental fiction. Sadly, Wallace, who suffered from severe depression, committed suicide in 2008.

"The End of the Tour," a biopic about him starring Jason Segel as the late writer, is being made.

The David Foster Wallace Literary Trust, Wallace's family and his longtime publisher Little, Brown and Company have made it clear they have no connection with and do not endorse or support the movie, which began shooting earlier this year in Michigan. No news on a release date yet.

Anyhow, back to the Art Truck and Peters:

"Tim is a prolific doodler and wanted the opportunity to doodle on a larger scale and as such is transforming the surfaces of the Urbana Land Arts truck into a large-scale doodle pad," Carl told me before the truck came to the market last month. "He thinks of the project in the truck as text art and has engaged several other local illustrators to collaborate with the project."

After I entered the truck, I immediately recognized drawings by Langston Allston and Sophie McMahan, two of my favorite, younger local artists. The drawings were among many interesting drawings, collages and text that covered most of the interior and exterior of the back of the van, except the floor.

I wanted to toss pillows on the floor, have some friends join me and then have someone drive us in the Art Truck to art destinations.

I look forward to seeing the Art Truck transformed each month. The curators of the truck through October will be:

— July: Carl/Urbana Land Arts. Urbana Land Arts is interested in exploring ways in which art can be instrumental in transforming overlooked and neglected spaces into meaningful places.

— August: Alexandra Schutz, who focuses on sculpture and installation through which she explores making as a social act. She uses everyday materials to create familiar yet casually provocative places and objects.

— September: Megan Diddie, a painter and illustrator whose most recent work combines paper-making, print-making and brush drawings to create a book project called "Pollinate/Pollute."

— October: Johnny Ridenour/Bricoleur-Farmers are transforming their 0.1 acre Urbana yard into an urban mini-farm and educational center called Jubilant Earth Neighborhood Farm.

In June, the Art Truck was parked on the west side of the farmers' market in the southeast corner of the Lincoln Square Village parking lot. Check it out!

News-Gazette staff writer Melissa Merli can be reached at 351-5367 or Her blog is at