IRVING PARK — A falling maple tree crushed Joe Mazrimas and Diana Levitt’s 2011 Subaru Forester last week — but not their sense of humor.
In fact, the couple from the city’s Villa District in the Irving Park neighborhood turned their totaled car into a sight gag that became a neighborhood and Reddit hit.
With the downed tree removed and the sad carcass of their SUV still on the street, Levitt and Mazrimas decided to make it a last minute, tongue-in-cheek addition to Sunday’s Villa District Art Stroll.
The couple stuck a museum-like sign in the parkway grass in front of the Subaru to announce the artwork’s name as “Smoosh.”
“Mixed Media (Old Growth Maple On 2011 Subaru). Artist Unknown.”
The sign also featured a QR code that brought the curious to a YouTube time lapse video of the maple being removed by city crews.
Someone who attended the art stroll shared a photo of “Smoosh” to Reddit Sunday. Since then, it’s been upvoted 2,300 times and has 100 comments.
“Very professional looking. I think Artist could be Act of God or Tree,” said one commenter.
Mazrimas said he’s happy so many people are still having fun with their improvisational art display.
“Credit where it is due, the name of the piece, ‘Smoosh,’ that was all my wife’s idea,” Mazrimas said.
Neighbors of the city’s historic Villa District normally have a packed calendar with events like Easter egg hunts, architecture tours, garage sales, block parties and more throughout the year. All have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“But we’re a pretty social neighborhood and still wanted to do something fun where we got to see each other but are also also socially distanced,” said Anne Lenzini, a member of the neighborhood’s Villa Improvement League. “We decided to do this really cute thing called an art stroll so Villa residents could display their art and perform music for people who live next door and from other nearby neighborhoods.”
Sunday’s art stroll allowed 25 neighbors to showcase photos, ceramics, paintings and musical performances. But “Smoosh” stole the show.
Mazrimas and Levitt, who live near Harding and Waveland avenues, had braced for last week’s storm. They secured items in their yard and hunkered down in their home. Mazrimas tried to move the Subaru to a street with fewer trees , but was stymied by street cleaning signs. So he left it out front.
“We heard thunder crack during the storm but no indication a tree had come down,” Mazrimas said. “But once the storm slowed down we looked out the window and were dumbstruck. This massive tree bulls-eyed our car.”
After the tree was removed by city crews, the Forester remained on the block due to delays with their insurance company and trying to find a towing company that wasn’t already busy moving other cars damaged in the storm, he said.
“I was hoping to have the car gone before the art stroll. But as we got closer to that date I felt kind of bad that this car’s carcass was going to be out in front of our house,” he said. “But then I thought it would be funny to have it become part of the art stroll. I’m glad people were able to smile about it.”
Gordon Walek, another Villa District neighbor, was at the stroll and initially didn’t realize the crushed car he’d seen parked on the street earlier in the week became one of the exhibits. But once he realized what the couple had done he laughed at their creativity.
“The car and sizable chunks of the trees that fell are still here. But Joe had the smarts to make an art installation of it which is great,” he said. “It’s so lucky the tree fell in the direction it did. Because if it fell the other way it would have hit their house.”
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