A family affair in bronze
VAIL – Forty years ago, Jane DeDecker was scribbling on her bedroom walls.”I had every square inch filled, even over my bed,” she said. Her creative mother had covered the walls and encouraged her 10 children to cut loose. Drawing was their entertainment, DeDecker said, and it paid off. One DeDecker grew up to earn his doctorate in art history, another to make furniture and Jane to sculpt.After studying art at the University of Northern Colorado and taking an intensive six-week tapestry-making course in France, DeDecker returned to her home in Loveland to apprentice with a sculptor. She set up her own studio and began sculpting pieces that can now be found in the Mayo Clinic, the Clinton Presidential Center and the homes of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Kathie Lee Gifford.
When it came time for Vail’s Art in Public Places to select an artist for its seventh annual Summer of Sculpture exhibition in Ford Park, the board turned to Bill Rey for suggestions. As the brother-in-law of DeDecker and the co-owner of Claggett/Rey Gallery, which represents her, Rey’s decision was simple. Rey and his wife, Maggie DeDecker, Jane’s sister, selected five of Jane’s pieces to display in Ford Park. “We wanted to show the broad depth of her abilities,” Maggie said, from the playfulness of children climbing on a fallen tree in “Family Tree” to the solitude of a man balancing on a wheel in “Setting the Pace.” “Each piece in the line up compliments the others and they all feel natural in the park.”This is the first exclusively bronze exhibition, said Art in Public Places coordinator Leslie Fordham. But because Jane is “not married to one particular look,” Fordham said her work is a good fit for the exhibition.
Raised in a family of 10 children and now caring for three – soon to be four – of her own, DeDecker undoubtedly focuses on themes of childhood and family in her sculptures, in addition to cooperation and teamwork. The five pieces on display in Ford Park are a perfect representation of her entire work, she said. “There are moments of childhood that I want to capture and share,” she said. “They’re personal, but they’re universal. They strike a chord with others even though they come from my experience.”When she can, she said she likes to use family members as models or at least inspirations for her sculptures. For example, “The Ties That Bind” depicts her husband crouching to tie their son’s shoelace.”It’s a facet of childhood I want people to feel. It’s tangible. You can touch him,” she said.Gesture and movement are paramount to her work, DeDecker said. That’s what it takes to move a sculpture from being just a figure to a life-like representation that speaks to people, she said.
Sculpture, like any art, comes down to communication, DeDecker said. So to have her pieces publicly displayed and have people come in contact with her work is her goal.”I want my work to convey hope,” she said. “It speaks to so many people. When pieces are placed, people experience them differently.”Public display of artDeDecker’s sculptures will be on display until Labor Day, but the Summer of Sculpture exhibition is just one of Art in Public Place’s many programs. For more information, or to purchase one of DeDecker’s sculptures, call 970-479-2344.
View more of Jane DeDecker’s work at claggettrey.com.
– The Ties That Bind depicts Jane’s husband crouched to tie their son’s shoelace. “It’s a facet of childhood I want people to feel,” DeDecker said.- Tree portrays a single figure reaching toward the sky. “There’s an element of wanting to belong,” said Maggie DeDecker, Jane’s sister. “An unwritten message makes people want to be a part.”- Setting the Pace shows one man balancing on a wheel. “A piece of my life is crazy,” DeDecker said. “This is a reminder to experience life.”- Can Can portrays women kicking their heels up in a danceline. DeDecker sculpted it after a friend passed away. “This is how I think she would have wanted us to feel,” she said. “She would have wanted us to carry on.”- Family Tree shows playful young children climbing on a fallen tree. “Jane can sculpt little kids and be cutesy,” Art in Public Places coordinator Leslie Fordham said. “But
Jane DeDecker’s work starts with a sketch, but she always thinks three-dimensionally.She sculpts figures first in oil-based clay, then builds a wire armature around the figure. Rubber is painted around the clay to create a mold, then the clay is destroyed. Wax is poured into the rubber mold to make a duplicate of her original figure.The wax figure is then covered with a ceramic shell, so when the wax is melted out the shell remains. Molten bronze is poured into the cavity where the wax was. Once the bronze hardens, the ceramic shell is sandblasted off. DeDecker then applies chemicals to age the bronze and create patina finishes. The whole six-step process takes anywhere from a day to a year, she said. Sound like a lot of work? Six DeDecker siblings work together to make molds, build armatures, cast, finish and market the sculptures, making Jane’s work a family affair. Brooke Bates can be reached at email@example.com