Green Bay’s Monster Maker: The art of Dale Kuipers

Aimee Suzanne Kruse-Ross

aimee suzanne kruse-ross | the neville now | oct. 2019

One of the unique Green Bay residents featured in the Neville Museum's “Our Brown County" exhibit is receiving special attention in the form of a new exhibit and just in time for Halloween.

Dale Kuipers was a local artist best known for his work as a Hollywood special effects monster maker. Among his credited works are the dinosaurs in the 1981 film “Caveman" starring Ringo Starr and Shelley Long and the werewolves in “The Howling."

The exhibit features more than 20 examples of the artist's work, most of which were donated by Kuipers' friend, artist and author Peter Poplaski.

Kuipers' love of horror and art began early on and by age 11, he was creating dinosaurs, monsters and aliens in his parents' basement.

“Kuipers was always creating monsters," says Neville curator Lisa Kain. “He would make things out of just about any material he could find."

This is evident in a dinosaur head currently on display that Kuipers fashioned out of a sofa cushion.

Much of the artist's work naturally found a home in haunted house attractions, including the haunted theater on Mackinac Island. It was here that a chance encounter with filmmakers filming “Somewhere In Time" led to his break into show business.

Trick-or-treaters on Green Bay's east side during the 1970s may recall encountering one of Kuipers' creations on display during a round of candy collecting in the form of Kuipers' “Man-Thing"— a creature costume the artist replicated from the Marvel Comics in which it appeared. The costume would land Kuipers a first-place award for costume originality and craftsmanship excellence at the National Comic Convention in Detroit in 1973.

Kuipers was also the original concept designer for John Carpenter's “The Thing," but when he became too ill to finish the project, Carpenter was forced to take the concept in a different direction.

Some contention surrounds the artist's other possible contributions to Hollywood. It's likely much of his work has gone uncredited.

“He never paid his dues to the Screen Actors Guild, which was not uncommon in those days," says Kain. “So he is uncredited for a lot of his work in Hollywood."

It's even purported Kuipers lent his special effects skills to the cantina scene in “Star Wars: A New Hope." The rumor is that Kuipers is responsible for one or more of the characters in that iconic scene, however, according to Kain, some people close to the artist have disputed the rumor of his involvement in the film.

Regardless, the collection of Kuipers' work now on display at the Neville offers the best chance to remember Green Bay's Monster Maker.

Green Bay's Monster Maker: The Art of Dale Kuipers runs now through Nov. 10 at the Neville Public Museum.

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