Harrod Blank is an American documentary filmmaker and art car artist. He is the son of Gail, a ceramic artist, and filmmaker Les Blank. His works include the 1992 film Wild Wheels, which documents the artcar phenomenon in America, and the 1998 follow-up Driving The Dream, which focuses on the artists behind the cars. Harrod has created three art cars of his own: Oh My God!, Pico de Gallo and The Camera Van.
Harrod grew up in Santa Cruz. In high school, bored with mainstream culture, he began to decorate his 1965 white VW Bug, beginning by mounting a TV on it, which he previously has shot a hole in. By the late 80s, he had moved to a run down shack behind his father’s house in Berkeley.
He continued to work on his VW Bug, and began meeting other quirky people, and discovered the Cacophony Society. During social events he noticed Michael Mikel’s car, the “5:04 Special” and began a social acquaintance with both him and John Law, who invited him to Burning Man in 1991. Harrod attended his first burn in 1993, filming much of the event, which he continues to maintain will be made into a film in the future. In the following year he formed “Art Car Camp”, inviting other art car enthusiasts to the event, giving birth to the mutant car movement, that is still a defining feature of Burning Man.
Blank is also the co-founder (along with Philo Northrup) of one of the largest annual art car gatherings in the country - the Art Car Fest, that was held every September in the San Francisco Bay Area, with the last event being held in 2016. Blank created "Artcar World" a museum dedicated to art cars in Douglas, Arizona.
In 2019, Harrod debuted his new film Why Can’t I Be Me? Around You, which debuted at the SXSW film festival, to good reviews . It’s a film about Rusty Tidenberg, a mechanic, inventor and art car creator, who is navigating her identity as a trans person living in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Oh My God! It’s Harrod Blank is available on Amazon (free with a Prime Subscription) here, and provides more insight into Harrod history and outlook.
Harrod Blank discussed his involvement with Burning Man on his blog (no longer available online):
Michael [Mikel] was featured in my first documentary film Wild Wheels with his art car "5:04 P.M." which he still drives today and which has become one of the many icons of Burning Man. I have been back every year since, and each year I discover something new about the event itself and about myself. It is a very cinematic event with a large percentage of exhibitionists and a strong number of media/photographer voyeurs as well. I am split down the middle being an exhibitionist/voyeur so the event is perfect for me.
In 1995, I began the 16 mm feature documentary film Burning Man Or Bust! [in which] I concentrated mostly on the art cars for which the playa is absolutely the most ideal driving playground. I also focused on body painting which I enjoy doing myself quite a bit. I painted Tora Brown, Alexis Spottswood, my father Les Blank, David Silberberg and myself over the years.
My own personal motivation on why I attend the event, regardless of how big it has become or the changing politics, is that nowhere else do I see such new imagery and other artists challenging the boundaries of art. I bring my own image, my art car "Oh My God!" every year and recently I wore my "Flash Suit" in the fashion show which is how I participate. Bottom line though, I love the new images and the fresh art and that's why I go.
~from Harrod’s personal blog [temperamentally available]