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The right time for a horse-drawn Hummer

Aug 11, 2010
by Liz Daube, '05

Alum’s latest project examines sustainability in the wake of the Great Recession

As General Motors announced its decision to end production of the Hummer, Flagler alumnus Jeremy Dean released a very different version of the notoriously gas-guzzling vehicle: one that quite literally runs on horsepower.

The 2002 Flagler alum was last featured in Flagler College Magazine as a filmmaker, for his award-winning documentary on the evolution of the Civil Rights Movement in St. Augustine, “Dare Not Walk Alone.” His latest project, titled “Back to the Futurama,” illustrates Dean’s roots in visual art; its impeccable timing has also drawn a host of media attention his way from ABC to CNN. The New York Times described Dean’s Hummer-turned-horse-drawn carriage as a “protest against unsustainable lifestyle and a rolling reminder of what could happen when the oil runs out.”

The project was inspired by the Hoover carts of the 1930s, named after then-President Herbert Hoover. Car owners who could not afford gasoline during the Great Depression modified their cars, hitching them to horses or mules.

To launch “Back to the Futurama,” Dean purchased a Hummer H2 – which averaged nine miles per gallon of gas – for $15,000. He set to work with the help of Slicks Garage of Palmetto, Fla., and began modifying it. The engine was removed, as was the hood and grill, which became a coachman’s seat. The horse-drawn Hummer has purposefully retained its bling: chrome rims, DVD player, GPS.

“It was an interesting moment laying torch and saw to this expensive machine in perfect condition, but I had no hesitation whatsoever,” Dean said. “I had been obsessing about this project for over a year, and I believed in the power of the image it would create. So it was with great enthusiasm that I tore into the car.”

The horse-drawn Hummer was featured at the New York City Pulse art fair in March, and it was recently acquired by 21c Museum, North America’s first museum dedicated solely to collecting and exhibiting contemporary art of the 21st century. The H2 is just one of a series of horse-drawn models that Dean is creating for “Back to the Futurama.” There are eight smaller models of modified Hummers and Escalades thus far, and he plans on making a few more life-sized versions.
While “Dare Not Walk Alone” and “Back to the Futurama” appear to be strikingly different projects, Dean says his work addresses common themes.

“In art you shift scale, juxtapose seemingly unrelated things, find relationships, and in doing so, you come up with new meaning and new ways of seeing that help us make sense of the world we live in,” Dean said. “In that way, ‘Dare Not Walk Alone’ and ‘Back to the Futurama’ are really the same exploration of the American Dream and whether the pursuit of that dream has been a success.”

Read More: Jeremy Dean’s Blog

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