Saturday, July 7, 2007

Lewis Vandercar-Miami's Andy Warhol



Many who grew up in Miami in the 50s, 60s and 70s will remember that we had our share of kookie artists and bohemians. One of the best known was Lewis Vandercar who just referred to himself only as Vandercar. Vandercar lived in the Morningside area at 331 NW 18th St., with his wife and two kids son David and daughter Muggins, where he had his studio and home. His home was run like a salon where anyone could come at anytime and visit. Many of the neighborhood kids loved to come and play in the sculptor garden. As an artist, Vandercar painted and sculpted in cement, his garden filled with his statues and his home with his paintings. Vandercar was a mysterious figure that liked to say he was a warlock and a clairvoyant. He called himself "Magus Supreme, pro tem of the Supreme Order of Magi" and someone with mysterious powers, specifically ESP and the power to levitate. He hinted about incarnations and said an alien entered his body as a young man.










However, Vandercar's most interesting quirk was his very funny pranks. He would take out ads in the local newspaper which were very funny. He said he had a pet poltergeist, and then tried to sell it through a classified ad. His classified ads in the Miami Herald were frequent: “Sale: Swamp colored UFO. Must qualify.” “Free Cruise to Bahamas, Bring oar.” “Electric car. $25,000. Extension cord extra.” He sold "roc eggs" in one ad. He said he rediscovered the ancient secret formula to make and impregnate the eggs of rocs, mythological birds. A woman bought the eggs and had them shipped to her Chicago home. Later, Vandercar admitted the eggs were really made of garbage piling up in back of his home. He didn’t want to haul it away, so he covered it in plaster. He didn’t tell the lady, but sent her a check for the shipping costs. VanDercar later explained: “There is some sense of the ridiculous that can be carried to such an extreme that it becomes beautiful. Take the time I predicted that a great extinct primitive bird was going to appear at midnight in the park. The newspapers exposed it as a hoax. Even so, at midnight, 150 people showed up in the park to see the bird. That was beauty.”



Born in Detroit, Vandercar never got beyond 8th grade and entered the Navy during the Depression to help support his family. In the late 1930s, he became an animator, drawing Popeye cartoons from his Miami studio. He entered the Merchant Marine in World War II and later worked as an aircraft engineer. He returned to Miami, where he worked construction jobs and ran a plumbing shop. Then he learned he could make a living from his hobby, painting and sculpting. He decorated an exterior wall of his house with faces of every age and culture, Greek gods, sea monsters, heroines, gargoyles, Moses, faces from Egypt and India and China, and many other places. He also created mountains for resorts and amusement parks, and built a gorilla’s lair for Monkey Jungle in South Dade’s Redlands. In 1971 he built "Annie", a giant dragon, 65 feet long and 35 feet high for a Merritt Island Park. Twenty tons of concrete and steel were brought in to ‘Dragon Point’ by wheelbarrow, as the only access was a wooden boardwalk. He left Miami in 1973 and bought an 14 acre parcel of land in Zephyrhills where he built a dome house of his own design and continued to sculpt and paint In 1984, he returned to Miami for a short while to repaint a reconstructed limestone bridge at Arch Creek Park. He painted the concrete and iron used to rebuild the bridge so it would look like limestone. He was still painting days before his death in 1988.






“He spent 30 years and died doing what he liked,” his son said. “Not many people are able to do that.” Vandercar once said: “Many people think what I do is ridiculous, but not intelligent people. Most people are fearful and they don’t enjoy life because they’re afraid to take a change and do what they want. So intelligent people admire your courage.” It's a shame Miami no longer attracts the Vandercars of this world.





28 comments:

Brandy said...

If anyone is interested in buying a one of a kind painting by VanDercar, please see this listing on eBay: 250196395340. This item was listed on 12-09-2007 and will end on 12-19-2007 around 2:00pm EST.

Glenn said...

I just found out that VanDercar died (Today October 30, 2008). I met him in Quail Holow while visiting my relatives in 1986. Invited me into his home and entertained me with his magic tricks and his wacky rendition of "Puff the Magic Dragon" on his upright piano. I feel I am very lucky to have seen the inside of his home back then, and his pet golden retriever shaved to resemble a lion! I still have photos of the inside of his hurricane-proof "cave" home. I remember him inviting me down to Miami to help him paint/build a bridge. I was only 20 at the time but remember him and his photos and coins all over his home walls..........I have always treasured that memory back in June 1986. You will always be remembered by me VanDercar!!!!!

Glenn Hustadt (Canadian living and teaching in Harbin, China) glennstadt@gmail.com

bill said...

We have "Witches Retreat " Oil painting very large. Could be one of his best pieces. Incredible detail and faces. mint condition. Offered for sale. Call or Email for pictures and pricing. info@palmbeachfineart.com......(561) 352-6265 ask for Bill

Beatricedel Peugia said...

I knew David Vandercar well at the University of Miami in the late 60s. We lived not far from the Vandercar family home in Miami and used to drive by and admire the whimsey.
Best to David and his family.
Love,
Beatrice del Perugia

Suzi said...

I have several paintings and sculptures but my dear friend's work is not for sale. I treasure it and the memories in Miami and in Quail Hollow. His memorial service was something I'll never forget. Anyone who was there would understand when I say that I have a little piece of him right here in my home.

CathyF said...

Lewis Vandercar was a friend of my Dad. Somewhere we have an old black & white photo when we were at his home in Miami in the earily 60's,there was a wall surrounding his property, with sculptures all over the place (tiki's that looked like Easter Island & Gargoyles). To this day my Sister has a couple of small gargoyle statues that Lewis gave to my Dad. I still remember the "HUGE" sculpture he had for sale on 7th Avenue of the dragon w/ a lady riding it.It's sad to lose a great artist, but he'll be remembered in all the peices he did.

Wendy said...

I spent many hours of my childhood at his Quail Hollow home. He was an amazing artist and a fascinating person!! I still own a couple of his sculptures and have them proudly displayed in my home. Some of my fondest childhood memories involve listening to his stories, watching his magic tricks, and exploring his amazing home and property!!

Tony said...

I've been to his place in Quail Hollow many times and remember his Halloween Parties as well! He said little leprechauns would come out of the woods but they never showed because of the disbelievers... LOL

Loved this guy!

Can the public still view his property?

Ryan said...

Just so happens that I drove by his property the other day to show a friend of my daughters...There were people out in the yard, but the mail box was gone. We didnt try to go up. I too visited in the 80's and got the pleasure of seeing the inside of his home.. I remember he was a little weird but very nice...he always kept the gate open and we skipped school to go see the warlock which was what we called him. I remember the tree in the middle of the house and the money room upstairs somewhere. He was very nice and I'm so glad I got to meet him. Then several years later. A guy I dated had a painting of his I dont know how he got it but it was very cool. Wish I could have kept it. I also heard they had a party for him when he passed away and a helicopter spread his ashes over everyone that was there... I was only 18 in 1985. Then he passed away in 1988 so I didnt get the pleasure of going to one of his parties but I would have loved to.

virgo5418 said...

I too grew up hearing the name Vandercar. I have one of his statues that he gave me. She stands against my house, facing the road. It has very sentimental value to me. I have fond memories of going to his house many times. I will never forget this amazing man.

kristy johnson said...

I was going through my Moms paintings and found two paintings and two heads that appear to be made out of coral by VanDercar. One of the paintings has his signature, 65 and "The Jester" on the back. I was curious and looked him up, to my surprise we had art work from an amazing and well known artist. You never know the history that you have in your home

KL said...

I used to visit him in Zephyrhills, Fl when he lived in the round house. I loved him!

Candie said...

We have an orginial painting of the ritual of the unicorn if anyone is interested in buying, please e-mail @lowcostparalegals2000@yahoo.com. Thanks

Captain Vino said...

In college 1959, the Miami News did a piece on LV. I went to interview him, and that was a start or a 50+ year friendship. I have the original "Garden of Eden" hanging in my collection along side Miro, Picasso, and Dali. Am the owner of Pygmalion, a poltergeist he gave me, and she has been my protector for 50+ years. (If you remember, you could only have a LV poltergeist if you could think of a name beginning in "P" that no one else had used.) I last saw him in ZH when he finished the tree house. He was a great, under-appreciate artist, and my friend. I miss him.

www.DVDRWEB.com said...

I have an original VanDercar painting that I would like to sell.
This piece has been in my family since 1964. My father dates the piece from 1961-1963. He purchased it from a close friend who was a collector/friend of the artist. Please call 786-200-9747 or webmaster@dvdrweb.com and I'd be happy to e-mail a picture!

sydnee1128 said...

I have paintings and sculptures from Lewis Vandercar for sale. perrysmithconstruction@yahoo.com

stixsandstones said...

I have a 52" wide oil on canvas from Lewis and it is a seascape with sail boat, I think it is from the earlier works when he first got out of the military. The piece is called Odyssey! I am asking $15,000.00
stixsandstones@hotmail.com
Photo's are available.
Lewis VanDercar is largely undiscovered, his work will rise in value as it matures and decreases in availability!
this painting is a must see! and Rare!
Ron

Dragon Don said...

Hello Dave ! Can you get in touch with the son of Lewis Vandercar ? I'm hosting a "say good bye to annie the river dragon " event on facebook.Held by Save Dragon point on Facebook. I would like his son to join the event. If anyone knows how to reach him , can you ask him to contact me at savedragonpoint@gmail.com
Please hurry ! Theres only 10 days or so to work him into the event if he would like to be in it ! Thank you guys !

Dragon Don said...

By the way .... Come join us !

Radon said...

dragon point was part of my child hood i used to go down the grand canal and watch it on my boat, I hope that it is rebuilt to its former glory!

Miriam Wooley said...

Lewis was my grandfathers cousin. My family has a couple of paintings and I don't know the names of them off the top of my head. They are much darker then his usual art though. Very beautiful.

Michael C. said...

I would often visit Van when I was a teenager after school at his home in Miami hanging out in his studio. I so much enjoyed listening to his many stories, watching him paint, & playing his upright Steinway paino. A couple of years later, when I was attending USF, David was my psychology professor. I still have 2 paintings. One is a self portait of Van. I aslo have a face sculpture he called Onwi.

Michael C. said...

I would often visit Van when I was a teenager after school at his home in Miami hanging out in his studio. I so much enjoyed listening to his many stories, watching him paint, & playing his upright Steinway paino. A couple of years later, when I was attending USF, David was my psychology professor. I still have 2 paintings. One is a self portait of Van. I aslo have a face sculpture he called Onwi.

Liquid Angel said...

I have currently been to warlock house and i must say vandercar's legacy lives on i enjoy being able to partake in the events.

Liquid Angel said...

I have currently been to warlock house and i must say vandercar's legacy lives on i enjoy being able to partake in the events.

Liquid Angel said...

I have currently been to warlock house and i must say vandercar's legacy lives on i enjoy being able to partake in the events.

tbayjohn said...

Do you still have any VanDercar Paintings?
Thanks,
John
Wesley Chapel

Ann Chow said...

I have a very dark surreal painting by Van Dercar I am interested in selling. It is signed but there is no name for the painting. I was told the previous owner got the painting from Van Dercar before the paint was even dry. I am trying to find a price for this painting or any info on it. If you might know please email me and I can send you pics. It is a awesome painting. Thanks. annb05@yahoo.com