TELLURIDE – Artist Neil Hannum finds inspiration on the road. Or, more precisely, he finds it along the side of the road.
Hannum paints old trucks. Vintage Fords and Chevys – dusted with rust and bumpers overgrown with roadside weeds – are given new life by Hannum, who sees the trucks not as decrepit vehicles destined for oblivion, but as American icons.
“They really tell a big story about the American West, and through them you can see how we’ve evolved through the generations… to where they are now, sitting in someone’s backyard,” Hannum said.
Four of Hannum’s pieces are currently on display at the Hotel Telluride and will hang there throughout the winter. The paintings resonate with a sense of a past time and place.
"Front Seat" – Cody, Wyo., and "Circle Route Garage" – Silverton, Colo., are two paintings from Hannun’s series of the rural West. "Wrong Way" – Gallup, N.M., and "Bus #4" – Flagstaff, Ariz., are both part of Hannum’s newer "Trucks of Route 66 – Gallup to Flagstaff" series.
Hannum said his enthusiasm for painting trucks stems from a deep-seated veneration for the old vehicles and what they stand for. As a youngster growing up in California, Hannum and his brother spent many a summer afternoon hanging their elbows out of an old hand-me-down truck, “hooting and hollering and getting into trouble.
“It was an ugly truck,” Hannum recalled, “but it ran.”
From the beginning of his artistic career, starting in junior college, old trucks dominated his canvas. His interest was captured by the visible aging of the vehicles – what were once spotless, modern creations were now scarred by dents and peeling paint.
“One road trip would lead to the next; I just couldn’t get away” from the hunt of old trucks, Hannum said. “Each time I’ve tried to paint something else, I’ll drive by an old rusty truck. In it, I see the passage of time and life… and it keeps me coming back.”
Over the last two decades, Hannum has, not surprisingly, become something of a truck historian. “You can see certain eras of society,” he explained. “A war hits, and you can see it in the trucks. Production is streamlined, and you can see it in the trucks. They reflect American society, in a sense.”
Hannum has been a resident of Durango since 1990 and owns the graphic design company Creative Conspiracy with business partner Kris Hickcox, who grew up in Telluride.
To learn more about Hannum’s work, visit truckartist.blogspot.com. The Hotel Telluride can be contacted by calling 369-1188 or on the web at www.thehoteltelluride.com.