August 21, 2005
An antique camera car slowly pulls a piece of movie film out of the rocky terrain of the Alabama Hills in Lone Pine. As the film unfurls frame by frame, the viewer sees one scene after another from the classic films that have been made in Inyo County over the last ninety years.
The panoramic picture is still in artist John Knowlton's visual imagination, but slowly he is sketching it out. The preliminary drawings will be the basis of a magnificent mural that will dominate the south wall of the Beverly and Jim Rogers Museum of Lone Pine Film History. The mural will cover most of the one hundred foot wall and will rise nearly nine feet. The individual scenes based on actually scenes from the various movies will be created by a number of local artists as their contribution to the museum focused on the cinematic interpretations of the local western landscape.
John is well known in Bishop, being a main stay of the mural society there and responsible for six of the ten murals around town. He also created the mural on the Lone Pine McDonalds, which is a combination of historic local ranching and the film history that has shaped the growth of the town for eighty-five years.
John Knowlton has a long history with the American West about which he writes; "The American West was long considered a blank slate, a land of opportunity where cowboys could fulfill their dreams." This is where John Knowlton fulfilled his dreams.
John Knowlton is recognized for traditional westerns, plein air paintings in oils and historical murals on local walls. He spent thirty years in the live stock business after graduating from U.C. Davis and studied art as well at the California Art Institute. He has won several awards including "Cattlemen Western Artist of the Year" and C.M. Russell Quick Draw Artist. He has been published in several art magazines and his studio is located in Bakersfield.
Rather than merely painting the artwork for the mural and having it transferred to Mylar and mounting it on the wall, Knowlton is an advocate of it being a community project. He hopes several local artists will create and paint several of the frames of film. He also wants volunteers from the community involved with the painting so it is truly a community project. When he has worked on other murals, people have stopped by constantly to talk, critique, appreciate and finally to get their hands dirty helping paint.
In Bishop, people would drop by with cakes and other food. It became a social event.
It is the community building aspect of the project that is particularly appealing to the Museum Board. When the project is begun, everyone will be invited to drop by and take a hand in it: "no artistic experience required."