Reinventing the potential of an object has always been the driving force behind Michael J. Ulman’s sculptures of cars, motorcycles, roadsters and boats. Using scrap metal and antique machines Ulman completes each piece with such minute detail, it makes you believe it could drive you away, bringing it back to life as something new and exciting for the imagination. Little did he know he’d be invited to reinvent the vehicles of a post-apocalyptic world and get paid to do it.
On the last Wednesday of March 2010, Ulman got a call and by Saturday he was flying to Australia with one duffle bag and alot of unknowns. The production company, Kennedy Miller Mitchel, found him through a series of gallery connections and agreed with director George Miller to invite Ulman ‘downunder’ to be a part of the preproduction of the next Mad Max film; Road Fury, to be released in 2012. Ulman was given a week in Sydney to decide whether he wanted to stay for the three month contract and provide creative advice to the wild motors slated to be incorporated in the film. He didn’t waste a breath in negotiation, diving head first into his dream job to create vehicles out of scrap metal while getting paid and getting a chance to have his work recognized.
As many artists will agree, finding an outlet for your work is hard enough without trying to be recognized or getting paid for it. Most artists have a second job, working in a field where their skills can be utilized to support themselves and their artwork. Working as a welder of ‘jewelry’ hand railings, Ulman was tightly bound to the bad economy earlier this year. The opportunity to go across the world, where Christmas is in the summer and water drains in the other direction, was a new and exciting chance to produce his creativity while simultaneously supporting himself.
When looking through Ulman’s gallery of roadsters, racers and car chase wonders, one wouldn’t be surprised at George Miller’s invitation to embellish the Mad Max vehicles. Ulman’s style is reminiscent of those cult classics that he so enjoyed throughout his childhood. One piece in particular could be front and center in the desert race for limited resources; ‘Gone Postal’ is made from a chopped up drop-off postal box with one headlight as if Cyclops had lost the battle and got up again to fight off a death race. Two large industrial exhaust pipes scrap the sky above the engine that could release plumes of toxic smoke just above the drivers inhale. The rusty armor that covers the body is missing under the belly of the beast, so as to leave danger just under the drivers toes and the kick start a necessity in a world where engines are compromised to the rudimentary basics of manual starts. In Ulman’s work, all of these visions are created from the tailings of a trash heap. True to an apocalyptic story where industry, and the cooperation of materials and resources, has deteriorated to the point of demanding recycling, junk yards become the garden of the future, sourcing life from the past to provide resources for the future.
Ulman’s natural inclination to reinvent an object was his ticket to work amongst the creators of the apocalyptic world that we can only imagine and therefore have to imagine it to bring it into existence. Ulman’s creativity was then free to roam within a story of humanity’s second chance at life, without the normal restrictions an artist must face to make ends meet.