Colorado's Aspen Groves Perfectly Preserved February 05 2016
Colorado's Aspen Groves Perfectly Preserved
Similar to so many others, Don DeMott's life took a major turn after his first foray into the wondrous forests and mountains of Colorado. Unlike most people in the world, DeMott has been able to take his awe struck experience and turn it into something that strikes awe in others. The realism with which he captures Colorado's mystical aspen groves and pine forests is simply stunning.
Don DeMott has been sculpting since he was 15 years old. He learned to weld from his brother John, who is also an extremely accomplished artist. Together, they created and sold thousands upon thousands of metal sculptures while doing business as the DeMott Corporation. Chances are, if you visited a department store in the 1970's or 1980's you have seen the DeMott's work. Stores such as Macy's, J.C. Penney's, Broadway and Bullocks featured their sculptures in their collections. Many of the sculptures depicted sailboats set on stone bases. DeMott's early mix of metal and stone still informs his work today. However, the subject matter has shifted to reflect something much closer to his heart and his adopted home state of Colorado.
DeMott's transformative drive through Colorado took place in 1979. His favorite song was "Rocky Mountain High" by John Denver. Inspired by Denver's skilled lyricism, DeMott detoured through Colorado on his way from Texas back to California. He says, "I was a big John Denver fan and that drive over Wolf Creek Pass and down into Durango was like something straight out of "Rocky Mountain High." Aspens have been stuck in my head ever since.”
Shortly after that life altering drive, DeMott began using the materials he had mastered for his early work and began sculpting and welding aspen groves set on alabaster bases. Fittingly, he sold his first aspen sculpture at John Denver's auction to benefit his Windstar Project in 1981. DeMott recently shared a fantastic picture of John Denver holding the piece on stage while Jimmy Buffett stood behind him as the auctioneer. Given the quality of DeMott's work, it is no wonder that the beginnings of his one of a kind collection of aspen sculptures were not exactly humble.
DeMott's work begins with finding an alabaster stone or two to set the tone and composition of his sculpture. In a piece such as "Blue River Aspens," DeMott found two stones whose shapes mirror each other to create the feel of a river flowing through a narrow canyon. DeMott will spend hours digging through piles of stone to find just the right piece to bring back to his studio.
Once back in the studio, DeMott begins the painstaking process of shaping and welding steel rods into perfectly shaped tree trunks. Just like in the wild, no tree trunk is the same shape or size. Every trunk in a DeMott sculpture is one of a kind. His aspens tend to be smoother with less branches. His pines are heavily textured through heat and up to two thousand welds are used to create all of the branches necessary to do the trees justice. DeMott's sculptures are so precise that he must mark which tree goes into which carefully drilled hole in the alabaster foreground. Skipping that necessary step could lead to some serious headaches while putting the final pieces into place.
Color never ceases to fascinate viewers of DeMott's work. The meticulously sculpted tree trunks are carefully painted with enamels and tiny paint brushes. The detail DeMott captures in his aspens makes one feel like the tiny eyes in the trees are looking right back at them. Darker marks in the trees show where scars have formed from the tree's age or its use by passing elk and moose to rub their antlers.
Fall foliage is a must-see in Colorado's high country. Sadly, it is so fleeting. DeMott's sculptures present the far too short time of year on a permanent basis. He uses organic materials to form both aspen leaves and pine needles. The material is dyed in natural colors and often presents fall at its perfect peak. Light dances through the leaves much as it would as if the viewer were in the forest, seemingly changing the color of the sculpture throughout the day.
Finding sculptures as realistic as DeMott's is not a common occurrence. The moment DeMott reached out to the Art on a Whim Galleries about showing his sculptures last summer the gallery's owner and director were instantly hooked. They were on the phone with DeMott within minutes of seeing photographs of his work. Only later did the Raitman family discover that they have owned one of DeMott's early sailboats for years. It makes presenting a show of DeMott's latest creations quite the show in the making.