Like plenty of little boys with big imaginations, as a child De Von loved Spiderman. And so he scaled trees and buildings when he could, the image of the iconic comic book character always in his mind. But he related to the hero in another way, too.
"I could always relate to that ongoing questioning of his identity and wanting to know about his real parents," De Von said. "My own father was a mystery to me, a film producer in Hollywood who died in a tragedy at age 36 while treasure hunting Indiana Jones style, just before I was born."
Maybe it was that love of comic book characters that colored De Von's artistic path in life, which revolves around the pop art that Andy Warhol and other artists made popular beginning in the '60s. You'll undoubtedly recognize the figures in his canvases hanging at Masters Gallery in Vail - Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, Batman, the Green Lantern and Audrey Hepburn and others.
The gallery, which hosts a show with De Von today and Saturday, has carried his work since February. "People love his imagery, layering and color," said Gallery Director Rayla Kundolf. "His acrylic box/collage pieces are so unique; people remark that they have never seen anything like it. You can see the influence of (Andy) Warhol and (Steve) Kaufman, but De Von has taken it to new heights."
De Von creates what he calls "interactive collage pieces."
"Often I get inspired by the people that I meet, take their photo, print it right then and there and sneak it into one of my pieces on the spot," he said. "If you're lucky you can put some gloves on and paint splatter something at the show."
Continuing Kaufman's legacy
It was thanks to the late Steve Kaufman (a pop artist who is also represented by Masters Gallery), that De Von first was introduced to the genre, though De Von said that looking back, he realized he " had leanings toward it, but was unconscious of it at the time. It really is fun and completely fits my personality."
"I became acquainted with Steve Kaufman through a friend who suggested his colorful celebrity-driven body of Andy Warhol style pop art would be a great match for one of our Sundance events in 2009 and asked him to put a show together," De Von said. "When I heard that he kept a tradition of giving free little 8-by-8-inch mini pop art pieces away to kids, I was immediately taken by his generosity and asked if he would be willing to visit the local schools in Park City and together we inspired the school to round up 75 kids to paint a 2,500 square foot floor painting to be used as a dance floor and ended up giving away 400 works of his art to the kids at the opening reception."
In 2010, De Von invited Kaufman back for another show, but the artist died of a heart attack in a Vail hotel room two weeks before the scheduled show. He was only 49 years old. Moved by Kaufman's generous spirit, De Von carries on the tradition of giving away art.
"I come bearing gifts - let's keep his great spirit of giving alive," he said.
Bart's on the bucket list
-De Von's art career began on cotton --he'd silk screen T-shirts to sell at Grateful Dead concerts.
Things came full circle when De Von had a chance to host an acoustic concert by Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead at his studio in Park City. Weir was featured in a documentary film during the Sundance Film Festival and De Von's studio served as the venue for a film after-party/performance that De Von called "amazing."
So who has De Von yet to paint that's on his "bucket list"?
"I really want to do a cool Pink Floyd series," he said. "I think there is a return to psychedelics in our future, in a good way though. For some strange reason I keep having a vision doing a Homer Simpson, man I have a soft spot in my heart for him and little Bart. I haven't done Cat Woman or Wonder Woman yet, that is if you don't count the Megan Fox half naked wonder woman/supergirl Internet phenomenon piece that I have in the show."
High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or firstname.lastname@example.org.