In a unanimous vote on Tuesday, the City Council approved accepting the donation of five western-inspired art pieces, including the one of Eastwood, from a Los Angeles artist who had originally placed some of the cutouts secretly along the hills above Glendale.
“This is the kind of organic art that I really respond to,” said Councilwoman Laura Friedman. “It was an artist who took it upon himself to have a vision that included Glendale.”
The artist, Justin Stadel, created the cutouts to evoke a feeling of freedom in commuters driving on the Glendale (2) Freeway beneath the hillsides.
As part of the donation package, Stadel plans to also give the city cutouts of John Wayne, Annie Oakley, Gene Autry and Roy Rogers riding Trigger, his horse.
Of the five, Annie Oakley is the only one who was an authentic old-west character.
A cutout of Wayne once stood on a hillside overlooking Glendale High School, the star’s alma mater, but was eventually destroyed. The Autry cutout still resides on a hill northwest of the Glendale Sports Complex. The Eastwood statue is set to be placed near the entrance of the complex.
The Oakley and Rogers cutouts will be new projects, each of which may take Stadel about a month to create.
Previous iterations of the Eastwood cutout stood on the hillsides near the Verdugo Hills Hospital, but those were vandalized.
The one donated to the city will feature the actor holding a bell in place of the gun seen in previous cutouts. Stadel swapped the weapon out after meeting La Cañada Flintridge resident Reg Green, whose murdered son inspired a memorial in Bodega Bay, near San Francisco, featuring 140 bells.
Green, who hikes the San Rafael Hills daily, met Stadel while he was picking up the pieces of a previous Eastwood cutout that had been broken. He was so moved by the mysterious figure that he told Stadel the story of his son, Nicholas, who was killed by bandits while the Green family vacationed in Italy in 1994.
After the 7-year-old was declared brain-dead, his organs were donated to seven Italians, one of whom has named their own son after Nicholas. After that, Italian citizens started sending Green bells to honor the fallen boy. They eventually were made into the memorial.
“It’s so very well-deserved by the artist because it is such an imaginative thing,” Green said after the meeting, adding that the cutouts will “become part of the public consciousness.”
Councilmen Frank Quintero and Ara Najarian worried that accepting the donations could trigger lawsuits from the actors or their estates, as well as encourage other people to install art in the city’s open space that wasn’t approved by council. But in the end, they also approved of the donation.
Quintero encouraged Stadel to consider creating some statues of American Indians.
“There certainly were Native Americans that were famous in the western movies,” Quintero said. “Native Americans lived in this area for thousands of years, especially in the Verdugos.”
Mayor Dave Weaver, who strongly supported the public art, suggested Stadel design likenesses of the Lone Ranger and Tonto.
“I don’t mean the Johnny Depp version of Tonto either,” he said, referring to the 2013 Disney remake of the western tale. “I grew up with the other one.”