The Cross of Dodge

Gordon Osmundson Photographs'


In the Grain Elevator Series the theme of abstraction emerged in my work. At Jamestown I concentrated on doing abstract studies, but when I was done a sense of time had emerged as an important theme. Strangely, it was always there in my photography, I just hadn't seen it as a theme. The steam locomotives are historic artifacts, the grain elevators had a sense of timelessness, but now I began to see that a patina of age and use did more than add character to the image. It gave a sense of history.

This project takes this theme even further, the past being divided into model years. As a baby boomer, I find these vehicles and their styling largely unknown and yet they seem familiar. I can imagine myself driving them. I can also imagine others driving them in times past, of their styling being the latest and most fashionable thing, of their being a part of the texture of lives lived not so very long ago, but now past.

The Cross of Dodge There is a strange way in which a working machine can bring the past back to life. It speaks to us of past technology and the way it was applied to create a complete solution to a given problem, and how it became something that we could use, enjoy and in which people took pride. Unlike vintage clothing or architecture, an historic machine at work is reliving its historic use, it is not being recycled into an adaptive reuse. But perhaps more importantly, machines, like living things, are self animating, in there own way they have personalities, turn them on and they come to life. Fire up an old machine and its past comes to life with it. Look at the image on the left, Dash - 49 Olds' and imagine yourself settling behind that steering wheel and motoring off into 1949.

The late 30's to the early 60's was a period of great changes in automotive design. Cars evolved from boxy upright affairs with separate fenders and headlights into the fat, rounded, aerodynamically styled designs of the forties noteworthy for their sensuously rounded shapes and heavy chrome trim. These designs gave way to the low squared off but flamboyant styles of the late fifties and beyond.

Continued Below.

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Twin Kidneys & Marque 38 BMW 328 38 BMW 328, Vertical Grill &
Roundel, Hortz Fender Skirt
38 BMW 327 Hood & Windshield, BMW 327 Trunk BMW 327

Buick Grill Creases & Hood Ornament Buick
Headlight & Grill, Horizontal Curved
Crease, 50 Buick Buick Headlight & Grill, Vertical
Turn Signal Buick Eight 56 Buick Buick
Grilled Photographer Hood Ornament
Abstract Forms 56 Buick 53 Buick Three Portholes Split Windshield Buick

59 Cadillac #1 59 Cadillac #2 Cadillac II Lights & Spinner, 57 Cadillac 59 Cadillac #3
on Fin, Vertical Headlights, 62 Caddy Spinner, 55 Caddy Headlights, 63 Caddy Taillights on Fin, 59 Caddy
41 Caddy Rear, 59 Caddy Jet Exhaust Styling Fin 59 Caddy

Grill & Ornament 41 Chevy Headlight 41 Chevy Chevrolet Headlight, 55 Chevy Pickup For Sale
Chevy Truck #1 57 Chevy Chevy Grill Facial Abstraction Door Detail
LIL 53, #1 LIL 53, #2 LIL 53, #3 LIL 53, #4 LIL 53, #5

& Emblem, 41 Chrysler Chrysler Grill

DeSoto Grill DeSoto WFP 287

The Cross of Dodge Dodge Brothers #1 Dodge Brothers #2 Cross  & Whiskers Dodge Brothers #5

36 Ford Curved
Crease, 36 Ford

Loewy Styling Loewy Styling Horizontal

Hudson Hornet



Lincoln Grill

OLDSMOBILE Starship Oldsmobile Dash - 49 Olds Starship

47 Packard Grill
& Ornament, 47 Packard Packard Grill Packard Clipper Packard C-Pillar
Packard Abstraction Packard Headlight and Grill Packard Headlight and Turn Signal

Plymouth Clipper Plymouth Hood
& Steering Wheel

Horn &

Aircraft were used as styling inspirations. The first fins, on a Cadillac, were styled after a WWII fighter plane, the twin boom Lockheed P-38 Lighting. Rockets and jet aircraft appeared as hood ornaments. Propeller spinners showed up on grills and bumpers. Large round taillights were faired into the rear fenders as though they were jet exhausts.

General Motors was the style leader throughout this period and those styles came from its department of Art and Colour under the direction of Harley Earl. Mr. Earl, as he was known, worked for designs that were ever lower and longer. He believed that the styling of a car should keep you entertained as you traveled around it. These philosophies served GM well for many years as they led to ever more opulent designs. But there eventually came to be a limit to this as cars came to be rolling juke boxes festooned with chrome. The height (or perhaps low point) of this trend was the 1959 Cadillac. After this car a new design paradigm was needed. It came from Chrysler with a new sleek and simplified look with lines that flowed the length of the car. Mr. Earl saw the hand writing on the wall and went into retirement.

There are few of these cars on the road today. Most are in the hands of collectors or rusting away in a field some place. But in their time, the aircraft and rocket styling, the general flamboyance, spoke of a time of hopefulness and progress, of a belief in science, technology and the future.

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