David Hostetler: The Last Dance

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Monday, September 9 • 10 p.m.

When a man looks back at a long life, he is often surprised at what he sees. But when that man’s life has been documented and defined by countless admirers, a look back means sorting through layers of description to find what is real.

At 83, David Hostetler can point to several coffee table books exclaiming his art. He has been the subject of several documentarians who point to his influence and style. Galleries around the world treasure the gentle curves of his “ladies,” the carved wood and bronze sculptures that have made him famous for sixty years.

In “The Last Dance,” Hostetler steps away from the hype and takes a long look in the mirror. What has his life been about? The relentless pursuit, celebration and reification of the female form. Hostetler is at once the resolute young individualist who left his roots in rural Ohio to find a path that nurtured his dreams as an artist, and the savvy marketer still dazzled at his own success. A darling of the 1950s art world who palled around with the likes of Jim Dine, he soon left the city seeking again something more true to his soul.

Without letting go of his relentless need to create, he has been a participant, rather than an observer: creating Art Park in Southeast Ohio in the 1960s, placing his art in front of Trump Tower in the 1980s, sharing his skills with hopeful young artists through four decades. In The Last Dance, Hostetler reflects on a life spent in pursuit of beauty, and on the cost of that pursuit to those who love him.

It is a price he willingly let them pay.

In the beginning of “The Last Dance,” we see an old man contemplating the end of his days. That vision is a mirage. Gradually, the viewer begins to understand that the art and the man’s life are cyclical. As he infuses his art with life, art gives life to the artist. Even as he named the sculpture The Last Dance, Hostetler was planning his next piece. Even as he moves into new images, he sees similarities with his earliest work. The Last Dance portrays a long, passionate love affair between a man and his art. That affair is far from over.