First published: Fall 2011
Andrei Palmer’s funky and audacious scratch-built cars are examples of a unique mind vigorously exercising and rearranging the million details of an everyday object and reassembling it into something wholly its own. An unschooled, untaught thing of beauty – in other words, traditional ‘outsider’ work from a new generation.
Andrei’s Artistic Automobiles’, as he has titled his output, are hand-formed from recycled cardboard, covered in spray-painted glossy poster board and further detailed with metallic paper that he cuts and shapes to look like chrome; with clear plastic for windshields, sometimes vinyl tops, pieces of cut mirror for side- and rear-view mirrors, headlights and brake lights that really light up, door handles, hand-sewn fabric interiors – all built onto a frame made from scrap wood, chicken wire and wooden dowels.
Their size, at an average of 25 to 36 inches in length, is also surprising, because the works have a physicality and heft that seem to belie the feeling that these are fragile cardboard pieces which may come apart at the seams at any moment. In fact, when handled, the cars are extremely solid – even a little heavier than they appear.
Andrei Palmer was born in 1987 in Ceausescu’s Romania and his earliest years, from birth to 6 years, were spent in a series of orphanages. Enduring neglect and abuse, the children of such environments are often diagnosed with post-institutionalisation syndrome, displaying features of autism due to multi-sensory neurodevelopmental delays. Palmer, however, is a bright-eyed high school graduate who considers himself ‘a social guy.’ His adoptive parents, Cathy and Tim, have encouraged him to make his art because they see this as Palmer’s way of working through his early difficulties. Currently, he lives in suburban Atlanta, Georgia, in an apartment attached to his parents’ home, employed along with his father at a childcare company’s warehouse. His mother is a prolific Christian writer who runs a non-profit organisation that teaches needlework skills to immigrants from war-torn countries.