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Dodge City officials grapple with statute display

Published on -4/8/2013, 6:40 AM

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DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) -- Dodge City officials are not quite sure just where to put two massive sculptures donated by the Dennis Hopper Art Trust to the city where its namesake was born and raised.

The pieces -- known as La Salsa Man and Mobil Man -- are 26 and 21 feet tall respectively and embody a style that the trust administrator has called a "large, impactful and a defiant blend of Californian and Southwestern culture mixed with Hollywood grandeur."

County Commissioners unanimously voted to put the statutes at the special events center, while the city commissioners unanimously voted against the placement, suggesting instead a park in town to display them. The issue is expected to resurface at another city commission meeting.

The Dodge City Globe (http://bit.ly/YAP24G) reported that Hopper -- who some say lived life at the cross-section of art and film -- had a rocky relationship with his hometown. He was born on May 17, 1936, and the Dust Bowl played a big part in his earliest memories.

"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," said Taylor Livingston, art administrator of the trust.

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. An unveiling and reception is planned for May 17.

Hopper's first two films were "Rebel Without a Cause" and "Giant," both starring James Dean. He also landed parts in "The Sons of Katie Elder," "Cool Hand Luke" and "True Grit." In 1968, Hopper joined friends Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson for the innovative "Easy Rider."

He starred as the iconic villain Frank Booth in David Lynch's enigmatic film, "Blue Velvet," and received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor in his role as an alcoholic basketball lover in "Hoosiers." His last movie appearance was as the voice of Tony, the leader of a wolf pack in the 3D computer animated film "Alpha and Omega."

With his health failing, Hopper was honored in March 2010 with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He died later that year at age 74.

During his film career, Hopper also had pursued another of his passions -- art. He had dabbled in Abstract Expressionism art. In the 1960s, became a Neo-Dada artist, working with found objects and making oblique artistic comments about the consumer culture. Throughout his life, he produced and collected modern art.

As a photographer, he was known for his casual portraits of celebrities like Andy Warhol and Jane Fonda.

A new biography, "Hopper: A Journey into the American Dream," was recently published by HarperCollins Publishers.

In a radio interview on "Fresh Air" on WHYY-FM out of Philadelphia in December of 1995, Hopper jokingly told host Terry Gross that because he grew up during the Dust Bowl, the first light he saw was from a movie projector instead of the sun.

But at times, he 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.

Growing up, he had wanted to get on one of those trains and go see the Pacific Ocean.

But when he finally got there, he was disappointed. The ocean looked just like the waving wheat fields with which he had grown up.

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Information from The Dodge City Globe

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Information from: The Dodge City (Kan.) Globe, http://www.dodgeglobe.com

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