Smile-inducing creations at Art on a Whim |

Smile-inducing creations at Art on a Whim

Kim Fuller
“Brown Dog in a VW Door,” by De De LaRue, 42”by 38”, mixed-media sculpture





Most of De De LaRue’s VW door sculptures have a furry protagonist gazing straight into an imaginary headwind. LaRue loves dogs, and she knows how their fur flies.

“I have worked with dogs in a vet hospital and as a groomer,” LaRue explains. “I know dogs, and how their hair works with the wind or with a hairdryer.”

While her mixed-media canines in cars — coming alive from materials like glue, fabric, paper mache, fiberglass and polyurethane — may exemplify living in the moment or looking toward an implied future destination, LaRue’s medium keeps the past alive. Her acclaimed VW sculptures are created from actual Volkswagen Bug car doors — the originals, circa pre-1976.

“The work is really vintage, but really contemporary at the same time, and this sets it apart,” says Brian Raitman of Art on a Whim, a family-owned and operated Vail gallery by Dena, Michael and Ross Raitman. “And you get that whole three-dimensional aspect on a wall, which people really like.”

LaRue says she is a self-taught artist, and while she’s mostly known for her work in sculpture, she also creates landscape paintings and chandeliers, and says that her vehicle is an art piece all its own.

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“I’m not a car person,” she shares. “I have an old Honda minivan — I haul dogs and art in it.”

Dogs and art — two passions that LaRue has been using as a muse for twenty years. She’s made hundreds in the VW door series, which includes a variety of dog breeds. All the while, her style has continued to evolve.“I had never seen it as a portraiture medium, and I have done a lot of portraiture,” LaRue says. “But people just saw their dogs; people saw what is an icon in this country for freedom and happiness.”

LaRue is a Denver resident, and Raitman expressed how it’s nice to have an artist in Colorado that pushes the envelope in a different direction. Dogs are fun, no doubt, but her work attracts attention off the streets and into the gallery. Her pieces move people into a sense of happiness and optimism, just like the magic of a man’s best friend.

“One of my early VW doors was sold to Children’s Hospital,” she says. “Over the years, I have had a number of doctors, nurses, patients and parents tell me how they were in a scared or stressed head space, and they said they saw the piece in the hall and it stopped them for a moment and gave them a boost when they really needed it. People see that in this art: the happiness. It’s that kind of thing that makes me feel like my art is doing its job.”

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