Work of the Week — “Joe’s Motorcycles, Asheville, NC” by J. Weiland

Monday, February 13, 2017

by Matt Gorga

Joe's Motorcycles, Asheville, NCJ. Weiland’s Joe’s Motorcycles, Asheville, NC takes me back to every dingy, grease-coated garage I have ever sought out, often in search of the metaphorical “Joe” who can fix just about anything at half the standard price. The greasy tools illuminated by the fluorescent tube lamps appear cluttered and dirty, yet organized. Can’t you almost smell the motor oil?

J. Weiland was born in Cincinnati, OH in 1948 and grew up in Birmingham, AL. He has lived all over the world, including Pakistan, Colombia, Spain and Malaysia, and he currently resides in Asheville, NC. He picked up photography in the early 1960s and took up the art professionally in 1968, and continues to do so today.

Before closely observing the photo itself, my mind wants to create a backstory. Perhaps this is the local motorcycle garage with everything you need, and nothing you don’t. Perhaps the trusty mechanic, whom I imagine is named Joe, is busy tinkering around in the shop. With his rough, rugged look and grease-caked shirt, perhaps he is the only one around you would trust with your bike. Perhaps I have watched too much Sons of Anarchy, and now I have a romanticized perception of people that work on bikes…


But let’s look at what I think makes this photo so special.

On first glance, my thought is, “Yikes, what a mess…” Maybe not everyone has that response, but initially I was having flashbacks of my dorm room closet from my freshman year of college. However, like my dorm room closet, there was/is a method to the madness. It’s organized clutter! The photo fuses disorganization with organization! Finally, someone else understands! Assuming these are Joe’s tools, I would bet that Joe knows exactly where everything he needs is located, just like I knew exactly where to find a clean pair of socks…

Who needs a $2,000 Craftsman toolbox when you have a set of drawers, cups, hanging racks and Nike shoebox?

It’s practical, it’s real, and it has a rough edge to it. What do you think?

Image above: J. Weiland, Joe’s Motorcycles, Asheville, NC, 1981, black & white silver gelatin print, 10 x 12.5 inches. Gift of the artist. Permanent Collection. 1981.20.91.