Ol Yell’er features a vintage tractor pedal car, a lovely memento of a time when farm kids pretended to till the fields like dad and city kids dreamed of the country.
Much of my body of work features tongue-in-cheek humour or zany contraptions, but Ol Yell’er is different. This Western Flyer tractor toy, with all its well-earned scratches and dings, wasn’t part of a story, it was the story - all by itself.
I surrounded the tractor with natural wood, as if the toy was parked in a shed or workshop. I built the backdrop from pallets that I pulled apart, making sure to have the imperfections from use show in the scene.
The tractor rests on an antique box, the kind found in every shed decades ago. I am particular about the boxes that I use in my work - a box has to be very special for me to take up valuable canvas space to depict it. Here, I’ve included the box as a metaphor for the way we adults put away our sense play and adventure as we age (though we probably shouldn’t).
This model of tractor pedal car was manufactured between the 1940s and the 1970s. I found this one at an antique fair in Canton, Texas and had to have it. (Though it would have been better had I found it at the end of my shopping trip, because it weighs a ton.)
When I was a kid in England, I didn’t have a pedal tractor; instead, I had to make do with an orange crate with baby buggy wheels. People at art shows who see this print tell me similar stories - either they had a toy like this as a child or they didn’t have one, wanted one desperately, and still remember the name of the neighbor who did have one! I hear the latter part of that tale from women especially who wanted the toy tractor to tootle around in, but were given dolls instead.