Artist’s garage brings ‘art cars’ to Brooklyn

Artist’s garage brings ‘art cars’ to Brooklyn
Photo by Bess Adler

A metalwork artist is creating high-octane art by driving a bit of Burning Man into Brooklyn.

Artist Yarrow Mazzetti is turning the “art car” phenomenon of the funky desert art festival into big business here — and the outlandish Burning Man-style sculpted vehicles that he creates in his Williamsburg garage are turning heads around the city.

His company, Overkill, has created a Batmobile-esque limo, a Rav-4 with an airplane on top, glowing ladybug golf carts, a six-ton orange “Nemo” fish tank car, a 12-seater Humvee, and a Star Wars-inspired Landspeeder — all out of a workshop on Morgan Avenue.

“These are ridiculous sculpture concept cars,” said Mazzetti, who builds anywhere from two to 15 fanciful vehicles in any given year.

Mazzetti’s own personal transportation is one of these cars, a tricked-out limo dubbed the “Batlimo” by his Tribeca neighbors.

Yarrow's company Overkill charges upwards of $100,000 to create outrageous vehicles like “Babs” (a.k.a. Bad A– Bitch).
Photo by Bess Adler

And Mazzetti says that what for many people is a part-time hobby to indulge in the months leading up to the annual desert festival at the end of August, has become a full-time trade for him in New York, where people pay him big bucks to create art cars to keep the whimsical Burning Man spirit alive year-round.

“People have gotten so much life force out of the experience that those who have the means want to give back to the spirit so that other people can receive what they found at Burning Man for themselves,” he said. “So they fund art cars.”

The fully customized cars start at around $100,000 — and the price goes up from there.

Mazzetti says he tries to get to know the owners first before creating what he hopes will be an authentic automotive reflection of them.

“All the cars are designed in a way to be a caricature of the owner,” said Mazzetti. “We usually hang out or take a trip, go somewhere or go skiing, and during that time we’d talk about what they’re trying to do. Do you want it for your friends, to pick up girls, a party car, a light car, transportation car? I try to find out what makes them tick. A lot of times I’ll ask what their spirit animal is.”

Yarrow sits in one of his luminous “ladybuggies.”
Photo by Bess Adler

Mazzetti, a Washington State native who first attended Burning Man seven years ago, says he moved to New York two and a half years ago when he was commissioned to create artwork for a nightclub in the Meatpacking District by someone he met in Black Rock City, as the desert encampment is called during the week-long festival in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.

He soon realized there was a niche for his work here — even more so than the de-facto capital of Burning Man culture, the San Francisco Bay Area — as well as the financial base to support it.

“I wasn’t finding those people and opportunities on the West Coast — there are less opportunities to build $150,000 cars for people,” he said.

Mazzetti’s work is now split roughly 50-50 between making cars and art for Burning Man buyers and doing high-end installations for Meatpacking District clubs like Kiss and Fly and Provocateur.

And he says that even 2,700 miles away from the festival, the community of “burners” is strong out here.

Yarrow's glowing “ladybuggies” are based on electric golf carts.
Photo by Bess Adler

“Everybody that I now know in New York are all kind of around the Burning Man scene,” he said.

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.