Large-Scale pieces recall Hopper's artistic perspective
Dennis Hopper had a rocky relationship with his hometown.
Actually, all of his relationships were apparently somewhat rocky, and that was part of his appeal.
Hopper was born in Dodge City on May 17, 1936.
The Dust Bowl played a big part in Hopper's earliest memories.
In a radio interview on a show called "Fresh Air" on WHYY-FM out of Philadelphia in December of 1995, Hopper joked with host Terry Gross, saying that, because he grew up during the Dust Bowl, the first light he saw was from a movie projector instead of the sun.
He also spoke somewhat wistfully about his youth in Dodge City, talking about the Saturday matinees his grandmother took him to, instilling a love of the movies, and the trains he saw going through town heading West.
He told her he got the idea in his head that he wanted to get on one of those trains and go see the Pacific Ocean.
But when he actually got there years later, he was a little disappointed; the ocean looked just like the waving wheat fields he'd grown up with.
Art and film
When World War II ended, Hopper's family moved to Kansas City, where he got involved in music and drama at Helix High School. He also took classes at the Kansas City Art Institute.
When Hopper moved to Los Angeles to get into the movie business, he made an impressive debut. His first two films were "Rebel Without a Cause" and "Giant," both starring James Dean.
As the Hollywood legend goes, Hopper was so affected by Dean's death in a car accident in 1955 that he became difficult to work with, battling with the director on "From Hell To Texas," and refusing to follow his requests through over 80 takes.
Hopper found himself unable to get a job on any movie.
So he spent a lot of his spare time pursuing another interest. Art.
In the 1950s he dabbled in Abstract Expressionism.
Then in the early 1960s he met Andy Warhol and Marcel Duchamp, both of whom happened to be in Los Angeles for gallery shows.
Hopper became an Neo-Dada artist, working with found objects and making oblique artistic comments about the consumer culture.
In 1965, Hopper's movie career got back on track when a family connection to John Wayne got him a part in "The Sons of Katie Elder."
He landed a part in "Cool Hand Luke" and appeared once again with Wayne in "True Grit."
Then came a turning point.
In 1968, Hopper joined friends Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson for the innovative "Easy Rider."
The film secured a place in movie history for the three stars and became yet another Hollywood legend, famous for wild creative differences on the set, crazed artistic flights at the editing machine and disputes over royalties that continued for decades.
Hopper achieved something of a double whammy in 1988, starring as the iconic villain Frank Booth in David Lynch's enigmatic film, "Blue Velvet," and receiving an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor in his role as an alcoholic basketball lover in "Hoosiers."
Hopper's last movie appearance was as the voice of Tony, the leader of a wolf pack in the 3D computer animated film "Alpha and Omega."
His health failing, Hopper was honored in March of 2010 with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Watching news coverage of the ceremony, it was clear that the honor meant a great deal to Hopper.
A medallion along Dodge City's Trail of Fame also honors Hopper's career and his connection to his home town.
Throughout his life, and particularly in the last ten years or so, Hopper continued to produce and collect modern art.
He became a prolific photographer, known in part for his casual portraits of celebrities like Andy Warhol and Jane Fonda.
A new biography, "Hopper: A Journey into the American Dream," was published by HarperCollins Publishers earlier this month.
In November of 2012, Summer Bates, director of the Carnegie Center for the Arts, received a letter from the Dennis Hopper Art Trust.
The trust's mission is to maintain and expand the creative legacy of Hopper in the public realm.
The trust was proposing a donation to the Dodge City Area Arts Council of two large sculptural pieces created by Hopper.
The pieces, Untitled (La Salsa Man) and Mobil Man, are 26 and 21 feet tall respectively and according to the Taylor Livingston, Art Administrator of the Trust writing the letter, "embody Hopper's commitment to using unconventional approaches (utilizing unusual and distinctive materials) to interpret popular culture. They were produced in the true 'Hopper' style- large, impactful and a defiant blend of Californian and Southwestern culture mixed with Hollywood grandeur."
Livingston also notes that Hopper lived at the cross-section of art and film.
"Born in Dodge City, Kansas, and brought up on a Midwest farm, Hopper often emphasized that his childhood shaped his artistic foundations. Invariably, this was integrated into every aspect of his life fueling not only his artistic vision but also his prolific film choices," Livingston said.
The arts council has agreed to accept the donation and is working on details of getting the large pieces to Dodge City, locating them for exhibition and introducing them to the public.
"There will be an unveiling and reception on May 17," Bates said Friday.
The initial location for the installation of the two statues has not yet been finalized although the long-range plan is for them to be incorporated into a revitalization plan and brought downtown.
"There will be storyboards at Carnegie and on the site where the statues are placed to explain where they come from," Bates said.
The acceptance of the donation is being coordinated by a partnership of local agencies including the city of Dodge City, the Tourism Task Force, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, Main Street, the Mariah Fund and Boot Hill Museum.
"We'd still like to raise about $2,000 to help with shipping and other incidentals needed to place the sculptures," Bates said, adding that donations of any size can be sent to Carnegie at 701 N. Second Avenue.
Annual art auction tonight
Meanwhile, Carnegie's annual art auction and wine tasting is set for today with the tasting beginning at 7 p.m. at Carnegie and the live auction beginning at 8:45 p.m.
"There will be wine tasting plus specialty beer tastings, snacks and a cash bar," Bates said.
"Plus we have a nice variety of art for the auction."
Tickets will be available at the door for $25.