About: Denny Dent
Denny Dent is among an extraordinarily small group of artists who are as famous for how their paintings look as they are for how they paint them. His most famous subjects are his paintings of celebrities and his finished products are stunning, unique works of art with vibrant colors and a thoughtful use of negative space. His style, which has name the “Two-fisted art attack” was a method of speed painting that was as highly regarded as performance art as it was for the finished product.
Dent was born in 1948 in Oakland, California. His mother was an also an artist, but the family grew up very poor and reliant on the welfare system. Dent spent much of his youth painting and dropped out of high school while he was a sophomore. He paid the bills by selling his art, but his real artistic success did not come until he developed his own unique brand of performance art. The first time he introduced himself to the world as a performance artists was at a Nevada radio news program memorial for John Lennon. Dent convinced the program to let him show up and “express himself.” He painted on a canvas using both hands and it initially looked as though he was just splashing paint around on a canvas into an abstract design. But John Lennon’s face soon began to emerge. He was telling a strong and communicating with the crowd through the process. The audience was stunned by the bazaar performance, but even more stunned by the beautiful work of art that emerged.
From that moment, Denny Dent’s art career had a calling card. He was the fast painting performance artist. He became a celebrity himself, and was hired on as the opening act for Steppenwolf and other bands. He learned that he could use music as a part of his artistic act and it developed into part of his performance art signature. He would go on to paint Mozart and other great classical artists accompanied by symphonies playing their music.
Throughout his career, he became famous for his celebrity portraits as well as his performance art. Dent painted celebrities from all walks of life, including Pope John Paul II, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Rudy Giuliani, Elvis Presley, and many others. He would typically complete a painting in less than 10 minutes. He would choose his music carefully and typically finish in the time it took for the audience to listen to 2 to 3 songs. He would often use multiple brushed in each hand. Sometimes he would turn the canvas as he painted or paint upside down only to reveal the properly aligned canvas to the audience at the end of a performance. He could paint with his feet, although he did not often do it in public. He was also asked to paint at many major public events, including Bill Clinton’s inauguration and the 1994 Woodstock concert.
Denny Dent passed away in 2004 in Denver. While the world is no longer able to view his unique brand of speed painting performance art, he is survived by his paintings. Dent’s unique combination of impressive celebrity portraiture combined with an even more unique painting style created a unique brand of performance art that will be missed.
Denny Dent in action: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x9d042PKJAQ