Grand County artist reveals first ever life-size Kerouac statue
He started less than a foot tall, but over the course of two and a half years Jack Kerouac grew to stand around six feet tall. Not the real Kerouac, of course, but local artist Howard Neville’s bronze likeness of the literary icon, which he unveiled Wednesday evening.
At the Fraser Valley Distillery, locals and guests packed the restaurant to see Neville’s final version of Kerouac and hear him speak about his process. It was an evening filled with callbacks to Kerouac’s life, including two distant relatives who came to the unveiling.
“I’m glad that we can unveil it here because this is basically what killed Jack,” Neville said with a laugh and a toast.
To Neville’s knowledge, his is the first life-size bronze statue of Kerouac.
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Using the miniature version of the statue for reference, Neville carved the full-size pieces from wax, which once assembled, is sent to a foundry to be cast in bronze using a process called lost-wax casting. The final step is to put patina on the statue to protect it.
“I did a miniature just for myself, but the next thing I knew it became something I had to do,” he said.
It’s a process that Neville is familiar with thanks to other projects, including life-size bronze statues of Glenn Miller and Dwight Eisenhower, which sits in Fraser’s Lions Ponds park.
However, not just the process connects Neville’s works. He described the other men he’s featured, as well as himself, as creative personality types. It was, in Neville’s word, “serendipity” that Kerouac seemed to fit right in.
“I had an uncle who lived in Denver and he was an artist and he talked a lot about Jack Kerouac, while I didn’t pay much attention, I knew he was proud to be a beatnik,” he said. “It all sunk in as I got older.”
In another unexpected twist of fate, it turns out Kerouac and Glenn Miller had met before and exchanged a conversation about fame. Kerouac had also frequently traveled Highway 40, writing about Berthoud Pass and visiting the Front Range.
Although Neville said he completed this project without knowing where it would end up or with whom, he has had several groups, including the Beat Museum and Kerouac’s hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts, follow his social media updates and expects there will be interest in housing the statue.
“All of these places have been watching my progress on him,” he said. “I don’t know where this one will end up. It would be nice if it was Fraser because they’ve been the most supportive and most cultural.”
In the meantime, Neville created 47 of the miniature versions to sell. Forty-seven for the age Kerouac died.
Next, Neville will take the statue to stops in Denver and Boulder before making his way back to his studio at the YMCA. He hopes the statue will encourage others to learn more about Kerouac.
“This is just me teaching other people about another personality,” Neville said.
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