LACMA rock isn't the first giant boulder to get LA excited

Artist Brett-Livingstone Strong with his John Wayne sculpture.
Artist Brett-Livingstone Strong with his John Wayne sculpture. NBCLA

The LACMA rock isn't the first giant boulder to make an impact on L.A. for the sake of the arts. In 1979, a chunk of a 116-ton boulder from Malibu was turned into a sculpture of western movie legend John Wayne's face. That's only a third the size of the LACMA rock, but still nothing the sneeze at.

Artist Brett-Livingstone Strong spoke with NBCLA earlier this week about that monolith and the new one:

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Strong offered his thoughts on the LACMA rock: "I think this artist, in his efforts to move it — that is art."

As for Strong's rock, that giant boulder was exposed by erosion and posed a threat to the beachfront homes and passing people and cars below. Local news breathlessly covered it night after night, but crews ultimately freed it from the hillside and sent it crashing... into a soft pile of dirt set up to catch it.

"I just had this vision of getting that boulder when they got it down, and carving it," Strong said.

Artist Strong became known for statues and portraits of political and entertainment stars; he managed to buy the rock off Malibu crews for a whopping $100.

According to Strong, one told the other, "Hey Frank, we need some money for beer later; see if he's got some beer money."

Some suggested that Strong use the rock to make then-governor... Jerry Brown. (Yup, same one.) Strong decided to go for a different California legend and crafted a giant rock face of "The Duke" John Wayne. Wayne had sponsored Strong for his green card when he came to the U.S. from Australia after getting to know Strong's family when he traveled down under.

Strong created it using a jackhammer over the course of three months in the style of a giant theatrical mask, chiseling it in public view at the Century City mall. He sold it for over a million dollars; it was later donated to Lubbock Christian University in Texas and remains in the school library.

Strong continues creating art, currently creating the "Statue of Freedom," a bronze statue he intends to be on the same scale as the Statue of Liberty.

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