Saturday, May 29, 2010

Now It's Dark: Dennis Hopper, 1936-2010

Artist, actor, and great American Dennis Hopper

What can I say?  Two of my greatest idols and inspirations, Ronnie James Dio, and now, Dennis Hopper, have succumbed to cancer.  I'm devastated.

From the introduction to my forthcoming book, Garish: Roadside Color Polaroids
During my technical school duty training in Huntsville, Alabama, in 1984, I became enamored with the Alfred Hitchcock’s “lost” classics Vertigo, The Trouble With Harry, and Rear Window, just then enjoying an acclaimed re-issue. Watching not only the amazing suspense plots, but also the lush and sophisticated Technicolor projections onscreen was the first experience I had with the truly sublime. Yet, at that time I made no connection with my photography.

That came two years later, while stationed in West Germany.

“Candy colored clown they call the sandman,” Dennis Hopper intones hurtfully as Dean Stockwell—clad in smoking jacket and wielding a cigarette holder—lip-syncs Roy Orbison’s immortal song “In Dreams” into a auto shop drop light. David Lynch’s 1986 classic Blue Velvet was an artistic revelation to me, a dark yet vibrant Salvador Dalí surrealist  painting sprang to life. Witnessing Lynch’s juxtapositions of blood-red roses before a white picket fence and a deep blue sky made me acutely aware of the color that’s all around us, but taken for granted.
Later, when I was first exposed to Hopper's graphic documentary photography, I was floored by the total genius of this Renaissance man.  

Dennis Hopper is definitely one of the top ten artists in my pantheon, and I can't believe he's no longer among us.