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"The American Dreamer"
by Sam Richardson

We were treated to a showing of “The American Dreamer” recently at TCA in Taos, the finale of the “Dennis Hopper Rebel Film Festival.” Ironic that Hopper is now celebrated as a cult hero, when at the time “Dreamer” was filmed (1971) he wasn’t that popular in Taos. Sixties Taoseños will remember that Chicanos and Native Americans and hippies didn’t get along in those days, and somewhere in the mix Hopper and his West Coast entourage were getting high, living low and shooting this kinky film at Mabel Dodge Luhan House, which Hopper owned at the time.

I could see this film as something Hunter S. Thompson might have written and called “Fear and Loathing in Taos.” The doc, which had no plot, was sort of a cinema verité run and shoot thing that showed a lot of skin and people smoking dope. Most scenes were disconnected with Hopper philosophizing about everything from oral sex to politics, mooning a room full of women, some of whom were buck-ass naked, walking naked himself down a residential street in Los Alamos, doing a threezy with a couple of gals in a bathtub, and firing several weapons into the sage brush. In his narrative, he tried to attach symbolic meaning to the nudity and sucking face, but somehow the dots didn’t connect.

Even though a 7 p.m. start was advertised by TCA, we sat through an hour of proclamations being read, one by the mayor, a talk about Mabel, and a folk singer. Hopper would have loved it. Much ado about a hippie filmmaker who took the world for a controversial ride on his terms and now whose image has been sanitized in the new century. Some in the viewing audience seemed to take the whole presentation as a religious experience: St. Dennis, the debauched guru who had us over to Mabel’s for sex and drugs and rock ‘n roll, but who, unfortunately, didn’t live to enjoy his canonization.

The first and only other time I saw the film was 45 years ago, when Lawrence Schiller, one of the producers, brought it to the University of Texas. At the time, cinema verite was trending, and Schiller sold us on the idea of his great genius due to the random spontaneity of the shooting and editing. Looking at it all these years later, I might say the film wasn’t that well done, even though we must remember that at the time of the filming all those years ago, with all the toking up and scenes with young women parading around au nat
urel, it was considered pretty risqué. Somehow our evaluation of the doc as art in 1971 become secondary in the face of all that bush we were gaping at.

But, overall, seeing “Dreamer” again made for a fun evening, a true Taoseño experience with an actor who gave us a lot of great movies, not to mention a visit to our younger years, when we, too, were along for that wild ride.

A recent exhibit at Taos’ Harwood Museum called “Órale” had three images of Jesus in less than religious context, including one of Jesus in a sink. The images were, according to one artist, to be considered an “open narrative.” In other words, finish the story yourself. Or don’t. Maybe there was no story, just an image.

I asked the artist of one of the pieces if he had any death threats from Bible-belt Baptists or other Christian fundamentalists. He laughed. Said he might have lost a few Facebook friends, but there has been nothing else.

At Taos’ Town Hall, an exhibit of Bill Baron’s cartoons hung in the corridors, earlier this year. He is the editorial cartoonist for the Taos News, and many of his cartoons lampoon and take the Taos Town Council to task; however, Mayor Barrone and the Council welcomed the exhibit.

Imagine that in the halls of power. Could a cartoonist do that in Tehran, Damascus, Cairo, Ankara or Sri Lanka? Cartoonists have been imprisoned, exiled or have disappeared in those places for their work.

Images of Jesus and politicians: whether you like them or not, we’re free to express our views in this country, which is not the case in countries controlled by totalitarian governments, religious theocracies and in countries like France where religious militias—immigrants—have imported their fanaticism and terror.

My view is that if your religious faith is strong enough, no art object can destroy it. Faith is personal. You decide, not someone else. And as to politicians, they know that as many as 49% of the electorate may have voted against them, so a little satire comes with the territory. The best politicians have a sense of humor and can laugh at themselves.

And in times like these, we have to laugh to keep from crying.

Presidential humor

"My choice in early life was either to be a piano player in a whorehouse or a politician. And to tell the truth, there is hardly any difference." – Harry Truman

"From Truman to Ike to LBJ:

The wit and wisdom of the American presidency," 
a presentation by Sam Richardson.

Some past speaking engagements in Taos: Daughters of the American Revolution meeting; Lions Club; Rotary Club; fundraiser for the UNM-Taos Library; Seekers, an adult discussion group; open mic, SOMOS (Society of the Muse of the Southwest)

Run time: 20 to 30 minutes

Events I’ve emceed: The Texas Folklife Festival (San Antonio), The Great World's Fair at Luckenbach; Headliners East celebrity roasts (Austin); The Annual Word Off (Terlingua); various sports and Chamber of Commerce banquets, and a number of fundraisers and auctions.

In Taos:  “The Friends of D.H. Lawrence: A Festival of New Mexico Writers”; “Read it to the Mountain,” the annual reading by the UNM-Taos English faculty.

Available for groups and organizations as a lunch or meeting speaker, as a after-dinner talk, or for any occasion.

Now booking 

Sam Richardson, aka SAM•U•L, is a Taos-based artist, writer, storyteller and emcee. He has taught journalism at The University of New Mexico-Taos and taught art at Austin Community College. His art is displayed in a number of venues and he is a free-lance feature writer for publications in New Mexico and Texas.

"And who is the American President?" asked Ambrose Bierce, the old gringo. “The greased pig in the field game of American politics."

"And what is an editor but one who flings about him the sturdy thunders and lightning of admonition until he resembles a bunch of firecrackers petulantly uttering its mind at the tail of a dog.”

—Ambrose Bierce, the old Gringo

There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.

There is another theory which states that this has already happened.

From: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

"With local coverage dwindling, the next 10 to 15 years are going to be a halcyon era for crooked politicians."
– Journalist David Simon,
quoted in The Chronicle of Higher Education

"What we want in a media system is
ostensible diversity that conceals actual conformity."

– Joseph Goebels, 1938
“Young people drawn to journalism increasingly see no
distinction between disinterested reporting and hit-jobbery.”
–Mark Bowden

Hit-jobbery: propaganda fed by special interests.

In a special report on the media, “The Story Behind the Story,” (Atlantic, Oct. 2009), Mark Bowden points to a malignancy that’s driving the state of journalism down – hit-jobbery.

“Ideologues have stepped forward to provide the ‘reporting’ that feeds the 24-hour news cycle. The collapse of journalism means that the quest for information have been superseded by the quest for ammunition,” he says.

As ammunition he cites events surrounding the confirmation of Justice Sonia Sotomayor where hit-jobbers, "researchers" with an agenda, dug up snippets from a speech Sotomayor had made at Berkeley Law School in 2001.

The clips, taken out of context, portrayed her as a Latina who thought her judgment was superior to that of a white male and as a judge who saw the court’s role as not to just interpret the law but to “make policy” and perform an end run around the other two branches of government.

Within 24 hours of Sotomayor’s nomination, all three major television networks had the story complete with video clips.

Was this good reporting by investigative journalists or the work of political hit men with an agenda who fed the clips to the networks?

“This process – political activists supplying material for TV news broadcasts – is not new, of course. (But) It has largely replaced the work of on-the-scene reporters during a political campaigns...” writes Bowden.

Bowden concludes his article by saying, “The honest disinterested voice of a true journalist carries an authority that no self-branded liberal of conservative can have.

“Journalism, done right, is enormously powerful precisely because it does not seek power. It seeks truth. Those who forsake it to shill for a produce of a candidate or a party or an ideology diminish their own power.”

The worst of it is that each newspaper disappearing below the horizon carries with it, if not a point of view, a potential emplacement for one. A city with one newspaper, or with a morning and an evening paper under one ownership, is like a man with one eye, and the eye is glass.”
– AJ Liebling

We could use a man like
Crazy Carl today

A reminescence

Crazy Carl Hickerson, a flower child and flower vendor on Austin’s Sixth Street, ran for mayor of the city, once, back in the ‘80s.

Sixth Street was the closest thing Texas had to Bourbon Street: good food, good music, good drink, good times. Respectable bars and restaurants prospered and an interesting street scene grew up around them.

Crazy Carl was a regular at the corner of Sixth and Trinity, appearing there most evenings during good weather, where he sold flowers.

One year, Carl decided to run for Mayor. He qualified, paid his fees, and was even invited to join in a televised mayoral debate. It was great fun.

Said Carl:
“If I win, I’ll demand a recount.”
“I’ll try it if you will but a lot of people think I’ll never sit on the council. I hope
they’re right.”
“People will vote just to vote against me.”
“To a lot of you, I’m just another pretty face.”
“Austin is just an imaginary city.”

Carl got a few votes and went back to selling flowers but his candidacy triggered a little spike in the bumper sticker market when stickers saying
“I’M CRAZY, TOO, CARL!” appeared all over Austin.

Illustration by the editor
You know you live in Taos if:
1. You either own a business or make minimum wage working for someone who does but, either way, you can’t afford to buy a house

Your neighbor on one side lives in a half-million-dollar adobe renovation. Your neighbor on the other side lives in trailer with tires on the roof which have more tread on them than the ones on his truck.

3. Your child's 3rd-grade teacher has purple hair and a nose ring and has an organic name like Sage or Blossom.

4. You can't remember if pot is illegal or not.

5. Young moms bring their babies to class, to board meetings and to all public events and nurse them while addressing the teacher or the podium.

6. Young dads are nowhere to be seen.

7. Gas costs at least .20 cents a gallon more than anywhere else in the U.S.

8. Young people don’t talk to each other face-to-face. They sit across the room or the plaza and call each other up on a cell phone.

9. It's barely sprinkling rain outside and the public schools declare a snow day and close down.

10. When the first touch of snow is sighted on the Sangre de Christos, the public schools declare a snow day and close down. All other schools and colleges follow suit and faculty and staff go skiing.

11. If you drive illegally, they take your driver's license. If you're here illegally, they give you one.

12. Many of your neighbors are grandparents at age 30.

Your coworker has eight body piercings not all of which are visible but he or she enjoys describing them to you in detail.

You hear something and hope it's "The Hum" because if it's not you have tinnitus.

When you compare Taos to Albuquerque, Taos is organic and ABQ is plastic. When you compare Taos to Santa Fe, Taos is blue-collar Southwestern and Santa Fe is wine and cheese counterfeit. When you’re in Red River and Angel Fire the phrase “East Texas Bible Belt with snow" comes to mind. When you’re in Española, you keep your eyes to yourself and hope for a lot of green lights and a quick passage through town.

The State of the State:

by Sam Richardson
The state mammal of New Mexico: The Harley-Davidson.
State bird: The ’55 Chevy lowrider which, like the DoDo, bounces along but never takes flight.
State Motto: “Hey, bro!”
State Dish: Green chile stew.
State flower: Sensimilla.
State gem: Roadside beer can
State tree: 100-year old uprooted cottonwood.
State dinosaur: White-haired hippie.
State fish: Submerged beer can.
State pet:
The barking yard dog.
"A good arrangement in Northern New Mexico is if your neighbor doesn't shoot your dog."
-Art critic, Dave Hickey

Things New Mexicans can cook: posole, green chile stew
Things New Mexicans cannot cook: Barbecue, cole slaw and beans.

Beans, we say, BEANS! Most restaurants have become lazy and use the canned variety.

Beans are to be soaked overnight, then cooked for at least two hours with onion, garlic, a bay leaf and a smoked pork hock or some salt pork or bacon. The addition of a cup of a good cajun roux per two cups of beans adds even more character. For those too lazy too fix a roux, a couple of tablespoons of white flour or masa flour can add a little texture.

Beans! Get off your butt and give them the preparation they deserve.

Summer of Sanitized Sugar-coated Nostalgia
by Sam Richardson
Note: This was written in 2009. Hopper is gone, now, but Taos still continues to struggle with its identity as it tries to reinvent itself during troubled times. Looking back, those confused, ambiguous days (or daze) of the sixties now seem manageable and fun.

Taos’ “Summer of Love” promotion, now in its third month, has kicked up a little sand around the village. The event has drawn record crowds to the Harwood Museum where actor/artist Dennis Hopper curated a show of contemporary art, which tripled attendance, according to the museum director. It has generated interest in art criticism and has been controversial as well.

Hopper, a one-time Taos resident, the actor who played so many roles considered to be close to the man himself—Billy in “Easy Rider,” Frank Booth in “Blue Velvet,” the photojournalist in “Apocalypse Now”—returned to Taos to a hero’s welcome for the opening of the “Summer” and later for a panel discussion chaired by art critic Dave Hickey.

The sixties bad boy who lived here after the filming of “Easy Rider” once owned the Mabel Dodge Lujan House, operated an art gallery and, during the post-Easy Rider period, filmed a debauched documentary called “The American Dreamer.” The doc, which had no plot, was sort of a cinema verité run and shoot thing that showed a lot of skin and people smoking dope. Alas, it has been lost.

Some say Hopper wasn’t that popular in Taos at the time of his residency and that he said unkind things about the place when he left. One local argues that Hopper gave drugs and liquor to Indians and Chicanos, then complained they hung around like leaches. Others enjoyed the hooch and hemp and say a good time was had by all. There doesn’t seem to be a clear-cut picture of Hopper the Taoseño.

The actual “Summer of Love,” or should we say the first “Summer of Love,” was arguably 1967 when an estimated 10,000 people converged on San Francisco to jump into a melting pot of music, psychoactive drugs, sexual freedom, creative expression and politics. Others associate “THE Summer” with 1969, the year of Woodstock. Taos’ “Summer” is loosely connected to the forty-year anniversary of the filming of “Easy Rider” ('69), one small part of which was shot here.

Novelist John Nichols (“Milagro Beanfield War”), writing in Horsefly, a Taos monthly, said, “’Easy Rider’ was released in 1969. It was so not about love that I don’t understand its connection with this year of ‘The Summer of Love’ in Taos, except maybe as an elaborate gonzo joke. There’s nothing sentimental to me about smoking dope, scoring hard drugs, or getting blown away off your motorcycle by redneck bubbas. In this country, the violence always rules. But, why pick such an ugly icon to fawn over?”

Sixties Taoseños remember that Chicanos and hippies didn’t get along in ’69, the Taos Pueblo was fighting the U.S. Government over Blue Lake, there were bullet holes in store windows, and, somewhere in the mix, Dennis Hopper and his West Coast entourage were getting high, living low and shooting kinky film—but getting ready to bail on the whole scene because they’d worn it thin. Summer of Love.

All wine under the bridge, now. Hopper like many children of the sixties changed over the years. In 2000 and 2004, he contributed money to the Republican National Committee toward the election of George W. Bush. That fact alone would make him unpopular in present-day Taos, the Obámanos Bush-bashing capitol of the Southwest. But, said Hopper, he voted Democrat in the last election because he didn’t like Sarah Palin, the GOP’s nominee for Veep. Locals either didn’t know about his Republican connection or forgave the prodigal.

Three of the show’s artists—Larry Bell, Ron Cooper and Dean Stockwell—live in Taos. Their work, as well as Hopper’s own, is considered contemporary. Taos is known as more of a Southwest art kind of market but Hopper et al were, for the most part, applauded by the community in spite of their abstract artistic leanings and the debate about how much “love” there was here in the summer of ’69.

The August 1st panel discussion at the Harwood, moderated by art critic Dave Hickey, was a sellout with overflow seating where a second roomful of people watched live on a video hookup—testimony to the interest the “Summer of Love” generated. Admission was $20 per person.

Summer of Love? Summer of Hate? Call it "Summer of Sanitized Sugar-coated Nostalgia," a summer we've cleaned up in reminiscence, something a generation of venerable hippies and artists can kick around and argue about if they like but a time they can all point to and say, “I was there in the sixties, man. And we had fun. If we could only remember what we did.”

One Man’s Music

The Life and Times of Texas Songwriter Vince Bell
by Vince Bell
University of North Texas Press

Review by Sam Richardson

“One Man’s Music” is the story of an extraordinary odyssey that took Santa Fe musician and songwriter Vince Bell from the romantic life of coffee house troubadour to the moment of his death in a grinding, blindside car crash, then back to life by the grace of skilled EMTs and ER doctors.

The book is four stories in one. It begins and ends with the author’s folksy descriptions of guitars which he personifies and describes with the love and respect reserved for old dogs and watermelon wine. It is also an adventure tale of a songwriter/singer and his travels from coffee houses to beer joints and bars and, in one sequence, to a Baptist women’s school. It is a love story about how Bell met and married his wife, Sarah, who walked through difficult times with him as he recovered from the tragedy that altered his life forever. And it is the story of how Bell fought back and reinvented himself after the accident.

After the wreck, when Bell woke up from a month-long coma, he found himself in the middle of a horror movie. In rehab and barely able to function, it was like he was the central character in the film but, due to a severe brain injury, had trouble remembering what had happened in the first 32 years of the picture.

As he put his life back together, the author found he’d been T-boned at 70mph by a drunk driver in Austin, Texas and had sustained brain damage, a ruptured liver, a paralyzed vocal chord and a shattered right arm – his pickin’ arm. At first, he had trouble remembering why he was wheel chair and bed-ridden, in considerable pain at the slightest movement and, at times, who he was. It would be some time before he could remember what had gone before in his life and he still doesn’t remember the exact moment of the collision that sent him to hell with a return ticket.

Vince Bell is not only a songwriter but is comfortable on the printed page. In his world and in his book, guitars and all their idiosyncrasies have a life of their own: “The guitar you owned and played was a symbol of your vision,” he says. “It bestowed a kind of identity ... You strapped them on proudly, imposingly, daringly on your hip like a large caliber revolver.”

With his guitar riding shotgun, he describes playing dates in roadhouses and coffee houses as a solo, gigging in places like the basement of a Baptist woman’s college in West Texas, at clubs in Houston’s hip Montrose area and as part of multiple venues with marquee players like Lyle Lovett and Nancy Griffith.

On being an opening act he writes, “It was always a challenge to show up before the big seven-piece band that was the main bill and duke it out with a front row filled with impatient entertainment shoppers. Nothing between me and that brain trust but six strings and a wooden box. Now that’s swingin’ without a net.”

The thrust of “One Man’s Music” describes one man’s courageous fight to restore and reinvent himself after the collision that left him impaired. His is the heroes’ journey, much as mythologist Joseph Campbell might have described it: Bell wakes up in the belly of the beast caught between his old world and his old self and a new world, a dark unknown chasm that he must throw himself into. “I could tell that even from the strange and unfamiliar depths from which I was gloomily peering (that) it would take the best of my thoughts, the bravest of my intentions, plus tedious years of toil just to relearn how to do the simple things.”

In this book, Bell throws prudence to the wind as he documents hospital reports, details of psychiatric exams, bouts with health care professionals – many of whom didn’t understand what they were dealing with in his case – and the love and care of family and friends who walked parallel to the singer as he found his way back. It would be two years after the crash before he could play in public again and ten before he recorded an album.

“This is not a book about tragedy,” Bell says. “This is a book about getting up off the mat.” After the wreck, he ran the gauntlet of hospitals, therapists and counseling and eventually got on track with what he calls his “Music School.”

Music School was Bell working every day on his own. It was Vince writing lyrics one line at time, reconstructing licks one chord at a time and it was Vince developing his own techniques like what he calls his black book and his black bag to help organize and remember.

Things to do and things done went into the black book. Things needed for each day’s chores, from guitar picks to tooth paste, went into the black bag. At an agonizingly slow pace he moved forward.

When he got back on his feet in Austin, he moved to L.A., then to St. Croix in the Virgin Islands – a musician’s adventure tale in itself – back to L.A., then to the Bay area where he reconnected with Sarah Wrightson who he’d known in his former life and who became the love of his life and, later, his wife.

As he began to write again, Nancy Griffith recorded his song “Woman of the Phoenix.” Then Vince and Sarah flew to New York where he sang on a date Nancy played at Carnegie Hall.

“On the plane home,” Bell wrote, “I couldn’t help thinking that someone with a partially paralyzed vocal cord sang at Carnegie Hall.”

Vince premiered a one-man show this year, also called “One Man’s Music,” where he tells and sings his story.

“One Man’s Music” is a worthy read not only for music fans who love descriptions of the songster’s life but as an inspirational story of diligence and recovery in the face of apparently insurmountable odds. This book will no doubt find its way into the hands of counselors and accident victims who can use it as a template for hope.

“Vince Bell, as far as I know, is the only writer who has read his own obituary,” wrote music legend T. Bone Burnett.

“The dead level best thing I ever did in music was to find somebody to share it with,” says Bell at the beginning of his book. Vince and Sarah live in Santa Fe, today, where he bases his nation-wide tours, writes, performs and stages home concerts.

On October 28, Vince Bell will do his one-man show at St. Francis Auditorium at The New Mexico Museum of Art, 107 West Palace Avenue in Santa Fe.

Interesting panel discussion at the Harwood, Saturday night, Aug. 1, 2009. Art critic Dave Hickey hosted. Dennis Hopper, Ron Cooper, Larry Bell and Ronald Davis, a group of venerable hippie artists and an actor, sat four abreast on the panel and held court for an hour and a half. The event was a sellout with overflow seating downstairs where a second roomful of people watched live on a video hookup. Twenty-dolla cover. Yowza! But worth it.

Dave Hickey: Taos is a spiritual place but not easy. It
strips away your narcissism.

This isn’t a town where a bachelor artist moves to have fun.

Taos is in the vanguard of globalization: People can live anywhere and do their work (As long as they don’t have to make a living from the Taos economy, he could have added).

Being an artist is a terrible gift.

A workable arrangement with your neighbors, here, is they don’t shoot your dog.

Hopper told a story about how he found Taos. He and a friend were looking for a location and, hopefully, a commune for "Easy Rider" and came to a fork in the road south of Los Alamos. One led to Santa Fe, one led to Taos. "Santa Fe is an art colony," his friend said. “I don’t want to go to an ‘art colony,’” said Hopper so they came to Taos where a man from the Pueblo greeted him on the square and said, "The mountain is smiling on you." He then led Hopper to New Buffalo.

Larry Bell: In Taos I was free of my distractions (He had a studio in Venice Beach, California and still travels back and forth.)

I built a studio with no windows so I wouldn’t be distracted by the mountain.
My status as an artist in this economy is about the same as a migrant fruit picker.

Ron Cooper: The majority of the galleries here (in Taos) are souvenir shops.

Ronald Davis on people controlling other people's minds: I can't control my own mind, much less will anybody else control it.

Taos take what it wants from you and shoots out the rest.

I was fortunate enough to be an actor. I could have never supported myself as an artist.

May 2009

Hopper at the Harwood
A review
By Sam Richardson

“Hopper at the Harwood, LA to Taos: 40 years of Friendship” takes the viewer through an assortment of styles and media in no fixed order.

Dennis Hopper’s giant black and white paintings “After the Fall” and “Election” are at least six-foot-by-ten works done in water-based primer on vinyl. In a video shot the day of the opening, Hopper refers to them as “billboards.” From “Fall” a woman’s face stares back through graffiti and clutter. “Election” is more ambiguous, silhouetting a black man’s head behind typography that spells out parts of words, only parts.

Perhaps Hopper’s best piece is “X-Xerox” an abstract canvas separated into two sections of muted earthy color with a slashing “X” embossed in thick paint off to one side.

Ron Davis’ large constructs, made of shaped expanded PVC, molded fiberglass and wood are angular, hard-edged, colorful. “Hinged Diamond Duet” is two precisely constructed interlocking diamonds in brilliant color. But “Backup,” a huge piece of fiberglass done in fading colors, looks like the spaceship from the movie “Close Encounters” after it might have sat on the junk heap for a few years. It is a huge heavy blob of colored plastic ... suspended.

Robert Dean Stockwell who, like Hopper, is best known as an actor, placed sculpture and collage in the show. His collages are intriguing and bring dozens of photographic images together in interesting compositions. All three collages contain imagery of physical or emotional violence. “Mussolini’s Office,” with a number of images of flag draped coffins, is the most interesting of the three.

Stockwell's two sculptures, both made with hundreds of dice glued together – one in the shape of a cross – look like something made from a kit bought off the shelf at Hobby Lobby.

Ken Price shows several small drawings in pen and colored ink but his two big works, both of which incorporate the words “Mexican Art” in them, are his best. With brash, clashing, primary colors in angular shapes they say what they say – “Mexican art”– loudly.

Larry Bell’s large works “WBAD 7” and LMSHFEK XI” are done with mirrors, silicone monoxide and coated glass among the materials. They are at least four-feet-by-four, are hard-edged and clean and are done in black and white. For people who may have only seen Bell’s stick figure sculpture and wonder what the fascination with his work is, these pieces demonstrate another facet of his talent – the mastery of technology in the service of art. Or is it the other way around?

Of the six artists in the show, Ron Cooper, displaying old works and new, covers the most ground in terms of style and technique. One piece is a ten-foot-long tube of plexiglass. Another is a lamppost. His most recent works, which combine modern industrial technology and ancient imagery, are big corrugated metal panels, enameled with dozens of Mexican product labels. Over the labels are painted Mayan heads in bright colors.

If the labels had been painted on huge stone Mayan heads in the Yucatan, they would be called graffiti. This way, the Mayan heads over the labels are possibly ... (pause for effect) ... "metaphors of transformation," to use a phrase from Cooper’s LinkedIn blog which says, “Cooper’s body of work represents the artist’s ongoing concern with the metaphors of transformation which allows the spectator to ‘turn the mind on to itself and its emotions.’”

Either way, the idea of transformation comes across.

Hopper and friend’s show is a visual page turner. It keeps the viewer moving through the spaces, anticipating and evaluating. And as is the case with all diverse and well-curated shows the viewer must "turn his mind on to itself" ... and decide.

“Hopper at the Harwood, LA to Taos: 40 years of Friendship,” at the Harwood in Taos through September 20.