Colorado sculpture Howard Neville creating a life-size Jack Kerouac
December 29, 2016
Grand County sculptor Howard Neville is currently at work on a life-size sculpture of Jack Kerouac. The project is in collaboration with writer, Dawn Mathews, who has been working with Neville to promote the project and writing a book about Kerouac called An Ode to Jack Kerouac and Highway 40.
When Neal Cassidy and Jack were traveling through Kremmling, on US Highway 40 in the late 40s, Kerouac described Kremmling as being on the "rooftop of America and where cactus had dew on it till noon", said Mathews.
"He pays homage to the landscape and towns along that forlorn Highway 40 in On the Road," she said.
"From the top of that 'tremendous Gibraltarian door' that he calls Berthoud Pass, to those mystical, mysterious, 'gold sunburning clouds' that sent him a spiritual message at the Utah border, his words caress and paint the land old Highway 40 runs through and reveals it as a masterpiece of poetry in motion and stillness, as only he could do."
Kerouac was friends with the poet Allen Ginsberg, novelist William S. Burroughs and Herbert Huncke all who are considered the "Beat Generation." The Beat generation has had many definitions over the years but the most acceptable one is used to describe some who has been beaten down, have little money and no certain future.
"What Jack and I have in common is the creative personality type," said Neville. "He was more victimized by his success then me."
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Kerouac suffered trying to live up to the image portrayed in his novels and faced criticism from the literary world after On The Road was published. Named one of the most important figures of the 20th century by LIFE Magazine, he died at 47-years-old from health issues related to alcoholism.
The artist life
Neville has been working as an artist most of his life. The Kerouac project doesn't have any deadline for completion; unlike several artistic project before.
"The more I work on it myself without stress or deadlines, the better it is going to be to get in touch with who your are working on."
His son, Blake, an artist helps him with the Kerouac project. He, too is living the artist life.
Neville is working on the Kerouac sculpture at Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby.
"At the YMCA they give me space to teach kids and the rest of the time I work on Jack," he said.
"When it's really busy I train some of the teachers who come in for eight months and then they leave, I bridge the gaps in the teaching schedule."
At Snow Mountain Ranch Neville said he is a bit of a curiosity to the kids and parents.
"'You are a strange one' the kids will say," said Neville.
"'You don't you have any filters' they say to me."
Working in the Legett Building where the arts and crafts classes are held he works with kids, adults, locals and visitors. It is one way he continue working on his art and working among artists.
Neville said he knew Kerouac was controversial in the 40s and 50s and that they have many of the same personality trails.
"I'm so much more conservative [than Kerouac]. I didn't do half the things he did."
Kerouac was relentlessly picked on because no one really understood his writing. "He was a shy, quiet guy unless he was out with his friends," said Neville.
"With Kerouac being a controversial figure, and that I was working on a sculpture of him, some of the my art students would come up to me and asked if the YMCA knew I was doing this," Neville said with a laugh.
Neville has completed a miniature artist's copy of Jack Kerouac to show fans what the final version will look like. He doesn't have an expected completion date of the life-size version.
Neville and Mathews have been collaborators for many years. The Kerouac project has a Grand County connection because Kerouac wrote about the area. Now the two artists are looking for a final resting place for "Jack" once it is completed. Ideally they want the sculpture to be somewhere on US 40 between Berthoud Pass and the Utah border, but nothing has been decided yet.
Mathews, a Hot Sulphur Springs resident plans to finish her book about Kerouac in the spring.
For more information and updates on the Kerouac project visit Neville's Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/NevilleStudio.
Kristen Lodge can be reached at 970-557-6030.