Two million glass seed beads, 35 pounds of fabric, paint, yarn, and resin, and 9000 man-hours have gone into the adornment of the Vochol, a 1990 VW beetle that has been transformed by two families of Huichol craftsmen, now on view at the Smithsonian Museum
for the American Indian in Washington, DC. (The car was earlier exhibited in San Diego, and is scheduled to travel to Berlin and Paris over the course of the next year.) The entire chassis, seats, dashboard, even the wheel caps have been intricately
embroidered and bejeweled with images of native symbols and illustrations of spiritual stories from the Huichol traditions, including, according to a Smithsonian press release, “a two-headed eagle marking the four cardinal directions, as well as the fire, drum, squash, and corn used in a traditional maize-offering ceremony.” This kind of beadwork is unique to the Huichols, who originally created the designs using seeds and other natural objects to ornament bull horns, gourds, and ceremonial masks.
On view at the Smithsonian until May 6, the Vochol – which, because of the jewel work, cannot actually be driven – will continue its tour until the end of this year, at which point it is to be sold, with all proceeds tot be given to the Association of Friends of the Museum of Popular Art for the purpose of protecting and promoting the traditions and craftsmanship of Mexican artisans.