‘Rustography’ brings relics out of fields, onto walls

Larry Edsall
Special to The Detroit News

Like so many others, I was drawn into “Weezy” Forman’s booth at the recent Barrett-Jackson collector car auction and automotive lifestyle showcase in Scottsdale, Arizona, because I thought her large canvases were beautiful paintings of old pickups rusting away in forgotten fields.

But instead of paint on canvas, the images are photographs, or “rustography” as she has labeled her fine-art photography.

Nancy Forman didn’t start out to become an acclaimed photographer of rusty relics. “My background is in fashion design and graphic design,” she said.

Forman studied art and design at two colleges in her native Philadelphia, and “wound up in fashion.” She became a buyer for a growing business and lived in various cities before returning home, where she met her future husband, Brian Forman, a cabinetmaker with a kitchen-design business. Nancy not only joined Brian, but his business, where she has worked for going on three decades.

It was Brian who bestowed on Nancy the “Weezy” nickname, a playful tease on a middle name she’s never liked.

“All my life I’ve been taking pictures,” she said. “I love the beauty of nature, birds and flowers — I love to shoot hummingbirds. I gave pictures away as gifts.”

Brian Forman is a car guy who races sports cars and likes driving the desert trails of southern Utah. Sometimes he’d spot an abandoned pickup in the middle of a field and suggest Nancy photograph it.

Four years ago, friends of Brian’s were opening a “hip” home store for a sophisticated clientele in upstate New York and they asked Nancy to display some of her art in the store. They put one of her truck canvases in the store window and even before the store opened, someone was knocking on the window, saying they wanted to buy “Sandy.”

Weezy gives all of her automotive subjects names. “Elvis,” a rusty GMC, is popular in Texas.

At Barrett-Jackson, she displayed a new book of her subjects. A woman picked it up and immediately started crying. Weezy asked what was wrong.

“My grandfather died three weeks ago and left me a truck exactly like this one,” the woman said, adding that her name was Heather, which was the name Weezy had given the truck parked in a field of the purple shrub.

Weezy said she has three types of customers: Car guys who want her images for their man caves or offices. Architects and interior designers who put them into living rooms and kitchens. And those who are simply nostalgic, who tell her about learning to drive in a truck just like the one she photographed, or about how a grandfather had one just like it.

In addition to the large canvases, Weezy shares her images in notecard, calendars and book formats. At Barrett-Jackson she launched yet another product.

“I thought it would be fun to have something for women, and I wanted something different,” she said. She considered T-shirts and tote bags and hats, but realized she likes to wear scarves, so she found a Canadian company that could reproduce a section one of her images as a 72-inch chiffon silk scarf.

For information, and to see the fully array of her available images, visit www.nancyweezyforman.com.

Larry Edsall is a Phoenix-based freelance writer. You can reach him at ledsall@cox.net.