When Huell Howser Met David Hockney

Even if you don't follow the world of contemporary art, you may be familiar with the David Hockney photo collage "Pearblossom Highway #2." It's one of his better-known works especially in SoCal, since Hockney created it by taking a series of photos on the shoulder of Route 138 near Palmdale.

Copyright: © 1986 David Hockney, courtesy the J. Paul Getty Museum

Given Hockney's love for his adopted him in Los Angeles, it may not surprise you to know that he once met Huell Howser. In an old "Videolog" segment, Huell and Hockney drove out to the very spot where Hockney took the 650 photos that he'd eventually collage into "Pearblossom Highway #2." It's the kind of interview with an acclaimed artist that you wouldn't necessarily see anywhere else, and that's not just because Hockney's Daschshunds come along for the ride.

Watch the segment:

Some highlights:

  • 1:34: "I'd feel a little more comfortable if you put your hands on the wheel, David."
  • 2:52: Hockney explains how he took the photos, which is more involved than just standing in one place and snapping erratically. He moved around, meaning that the final product actually collapses the space of the original site into something new. Hockney essentially created a space that had never existed and doesn't exist outside his work.
  • 4:50: Hockney, a Brit who'd never driven before, explaining that he ended up driving all the way to Las Vegas just to get practice being a motorist in L.A.
  • 5:49 "If you locked Van Gogh in the dreariest room in the Holiday Inn in Palmdale for a week, he'd still come out with exciting paintings." (Pro tip: Note Hockney's correct pronunciation of "Van Gogh" and keep it in mind for dinner parties.)
  • 7:10 Huell's closing comments are as follows: "But even with all this attention and acclaim, he's still a nice guy. Down to earth and totally unpretentious, and most importantly a man who truly celebrates all of life's moments -- even the simple ones." He's speaking about Hockney, but any Huell fan will instantly recognize that he could have easily been describing himself.
Read previous "Retro Huell" posts: See more on Huell's official YouTube page. And if you haven't yet, take a moment to sign Huell's memorial page.

About the Author

Drew Mackie, associate producer of new media, liked shows about old British people before it became fashionable. He also says silly things on Twitter.
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