By Paul Chimera
Salvador Dali Historian
Very shortly, a larger-than-life character-hero traverses the globe in a rather unlikely vehicle – a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer. Salvador Dali – our own brand of character-hero – never got a driver’s license. But he managed to get around in a variety of conveyances – including one of his own invention.
That would be his Ovocipede, which he created and presented to the world, in Paris, France, in 1959. It was to be a new means of locomotion, and it seems it was inspired by Dali’s oft-discussed memories of the paradise-like nature of his vivid intra-uterine memories.
The transparent sphere, fashioned of plastic, was occupant-propelled – no motors or engines, thank you very much. Instead, the operator would run along on the inside track like a caged hamster on a wheel. Explained one description: “Dali claimed it could be rolled over land, water, ice or snow. The operator stands and holds the two hand bars on the axis, or can sit on the seat to coast. Steering is managed by shifting the weight along the axis in the direction of the turn. The driver turns around to reverse.”
To my knowledge, this “vehicle” never rolled on beyond a one-off prototype. You can bet, however, that it served as a great photo-op for the master of performance art. And another example of his constantly propelled imagination and inimitable sense of creative innovation.
Since we’re talking vehicles, let’s look at some other means of travel Salvador Dali chose. As noted, he never drove himself. I think most would agree Dali was simply too disconnected with the practical side of life to be steady and trusted enough to operate heavy equipment! Geniuses often have difficulty with things most of us take for granted.
With winter here, let’s look at a photo of Dali being spirited around New York’s Central Park in a horse-drawn sleigh. He’s accompanied by Gala – and a firearm! Just why Dali was pointing a (toy?) gun at someone is unclear – a playful move that would be very politically incorrect in today’s social climate.
The photo of Dali and Gala in a taxi here reminds me of what the artist once said about his fame. He noted that, for example, if artist Joan Miro were spotted in a taxi, no one would recognize him. But with Dali, people constantly exclaimed, “Look! Look! It’s Salvador Dali!” His mustache needed to take a bow, for sure.
While Dali never drove an automobile, he had no aversion to bicycling. And his pose on a motorcycle is a classic, as it was with his surreal idea: a grass-covered Volkswagen!
Fishing boats were an everyday fixture at Port Lligat, Spain, and we see Dali here, relaxed upon the bay. Bigger boats, to be sure, ferried Dali, Gala, Capt. Peter Moore – even Dali’s pet ocelot – to and from America on the SS France and SS America.
Dali was often paraded through the streets as the conquering hero, and sometimes these grand chariots took on elephantine characteristics!
Finally, in a flight of promotional fancy, a jetliner was painted with a Dali mustache and related information when the remarkable “Dali: The Late Work” exhibition soared to high-flying attendance results at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2010 – 2011. And late in life, Dali finally got over his fear of flying.