There’s a bit of kerfuffle from some Pittsburghers about the Pittsburgh-centric episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Show ‘Parts Unknown.’ What particularly struck me about the backlash was the dismissal of the demolition derby and wrestling segments – these activities were deemed to be not representative of Pittsburgh due to their location outside of the City, the visual impact of participants bearing Confederate flags, and more.
I’ve written in the past about Two Pittsburghs, so I decided to consult with someone who not only had a burgh’s eye view of some of the actual filming BUT is himself a Pittsburgh based, nationally ranked Demolition Derby Driver – Jason Sauer from Most Wanted Fine Art. He agreed to answer a few questions.
Name: Jason Sauer aka Mr.Most Wanted #AmericasBestKnownArtist
Pronouns: no response
How do you describe your identity? Cis White Male, Garfield resident 12 yrs
As a nationally ranked demolition derby who grew up in Mercer
County and has lived in Garfield for over 10 years,
what can you tell us about the derby and wrestling connections to
Pittsburgh? I’m pretty sure, studio wrestling got it’s national foothold started here in Pittsburgh. And demolition derby has been a participating culture just as long. I believe that they have the theactrics of a “squared circle” with a vocal “lead up” to the big event. There are good guys and villians, plus long time champs and rookies with enthusiasm!
Why do you think people are so upset about these particular factors? I couldn’t really tell you why people find this strong Pittsburgh identity so appalling.. I didn’t find to much of that on my timeline.. mostly I saw support and congratulations, and new people, looking to catch the next event.
But, I was tagged in many conversations/Comments that drew much passion about the 2 instances of the Confederate flag as head band at the beginning of the demolition derby segment and the Confederate flag sweater at the end of the segment, followed/ended with a young kid waving an American flag…I’m thinking about how this segment was edited to give such reactions.
I live in Manchester on the Northside. I can get to New
Alexandria in about 30-45 minutes depending on traffic. It takes me
that long to get to Mt. Lebanon and longer to get to the airport. Is
this about geography or something else? Once you get past Monroeville, then it’s smooth sailing.. problem is, the Derby starts at 6:30-7, every other Friday, which means you gotta leave by 5 from Garfield.. just to sit in traffic.
In your professional career, you’ve been exploring how folk arts
in Western Pennsylania are tied to our modern experiences. How has our
cultural move away from or rejection of folk arts cut us off from our
real identity? Folk art culture is a family tradition of 3+ generations creating a specific effort as identity. I recognize my role as the 3rd generation, raising the 4th, Rowdy Floyd Sauer 5yr old Power wheels demolition derby driver!
I don’t think everyone born nowadays has a 3rd generational identity, which means, we can start all over again at 1
You were at the demolition derby where Anthony Bourdain filmed. Tell
us about your experience. There was rumor running through the Western PA derby scene this past June, about a special one night only derby, sceduled on a non derby night.. big question.. could we get the “car count?” ( Car count = the number of enteries. Which can be a challenge because you have to convince the driver/builders to take time out, and build another car)
And the rumors about CNN were true, but not everyone knew it was Bourdain. Or about Brooke.
I was invited there, to spray paint a couple cars for the crowd and on camera. Whilst the production company looked at the #PghArtCar for a specific shot of Bourdain, riding around Pittsburgh talking, turns out, the crew really wanted a convertible.. by the time the shot was ready to be filmed.. they had found a convertible. Which bummed me out, cause I knew we were up.. if they couldn’t find that particular car.. oh well.. I’m just glad, they thought of us ( MWFA #PghArtCar) as a ” Pittsburgh identity”.
I understand wanting to use a convertible for the taping. I can’t help
but wonder what difference it would have made to have him in a car
clearly labeled as ‘The Pittsburgh Art Car’ in these scenes. Like
maybe a subtle ‘a ha’ moment. I realize you would greatly like to
have your work in a national television episode so let’s set that
incentive aside and focus on your role as a person who has been an
ambassador of sorts to the region around these topics. What do you
think? With that said.. I don’t feel as if MWFA #PghArtCar is “Unknown”
Perhaps our inclusion would come with an eye roll.. I really appreciated the amount of attention went into finding women to be an integral part of the story of Pittsburghs “Unknown Strength” in the episode.
In my own art project, which your gallery helped to create in 2015, I
see these lines between Pittsburgh and the rural regions of Western
PA. A lot of LGBTQ people who are perfectly aware of their oppression
still prefer to live in the ex-burbs, small towns, and rural
communities for the same reasons many people identify – family ties,
personal comfort, space, community, etc. This tends to shock folks who
think every LGBTQ person wants to move to Pittsburgh. In fact, the
data shows the Pittsburgh’s LGBTQ population is very small – we rank
49 out of the top 50 areas for openly LGBT residents. I think this is
a parallel conversation to the Bourdain discussion. What do you think? I think the parallel thinking, is that, people who live in the country, often, do not want to deal with “traffic” and the “assholes” who live in the city.. if you never have to come any closer than McKnight road, monroeville, Ross township, dormont.. then good!
What are the best ways for Pittsburghers now interested to participate
and learn about demolition derby and wrestling? I’m not sure who to tell you about wrestling, other than Kurt Angle. And demolition derby stuff can be found nationally on Facebook at United States Demolition Derby, and if you want to follow along locally follow Cioppa Racing from Rankin. Or from the episode, please follow lead driver in the segment Brooke Davis
Most Wanted Fine Arts is now actively hosting exhibits at 5015 Penn
Avenue, but it still very much open. Tell us about your current and
future projects. MWFA is working on national programming at the moment. We have some great shows lined up, at Art Basel in Florida in December, plus the Art expo in NYC in the middle of April.
I will be painting cars at the national championship in Topeka Kansas, this November on pay per view. And I’ll be driving in the Florida Nationals team show in February.
Where I driving on # TeamAmVets
MWFA is still slowly building our new museum in Garfield too. We are some lucky, hard working folks.
Congratulations for being voted among Pittsburgh’s Best Galleries once
again, every year since 2013, I believe. Given your focus on folk
arts, that must say something about Pittsburghers perhaps just not
making that connection to steel and paint as folk art media? no response.
Thank you, Jason.
You can follow Jason, Nina and Most Wanted Fine Art on social media to learn more about their Pittsburgh Art Car projects as well as their other work.
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