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Vails newest creative creatures

Caramie SchnellVail, CO, Colorado
AE Dan Ostermiller Artist1 SM 7-10-07
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VAIL Giggling, a mom and her two blonde-haired daughters lie sprawled on a blanket next to a towering bronze elephant sculpture in Ford Park. The remnants of a picnic lunch sit on the grass beside them. We came looking for wildflowers to picnic next to and we found this, said Colorado Springs resident Terry Hall, gesturing to the surrounding botanic gardens and the sculptures. It was a lucky accident.

And why did they choose to hunker down next to the jovial looking elephant?My sister loves elephants, said Avery, 9, nodding at her sister.This elephant, they surmise, is dancing. (The elephant) obviously has a lot of personality. I picture him dancing in the park, said Hall.Yep, he looks happy, Jessica, 12, agreed.The sculpture is one of six highly detailed bronze animal sculptures two bears, a chicken, a pig named Bella and a whitetail deer lining the pathway through Ford Park in Vail. The pieces, on display through Labor Day, are the Town of Vails newest Art in Public Places project, Summer of Sculpture.

Dan Ostermiller, a Loveland based artist, created the wildlife sculptures. One of his favorite things about public art projects like these are hearing the responses, he said. I never thought of the elephant as actually dancing but I think that is wonderful, Ostermiller said after hearing the girls guess. Really the elephant is meant to represent a circus elephant in the midst of performing, he said.Ostermiller, considered one of the foremost wildlife sculptors working in the United States today, grew up surrounded by animals, both dead and alive, he said. His father was a world renowned taxidermist whose work took him around the world.He really gave me that wanderlust to travel, Ostermiller said. I travel extensively myself for research. Ostermiller visits zoos as well as wildlife in their natural habitats. Hes intrigued by the contrast between the animals he sees in both the wild and zoo context.If there is a mountain lion in a pen, and the pen next to it has a deer in it and the mountain lion no longer wants to hunt the deer, is he still a mountain lion? Theyre not bad just different, he said.Though some people are upset and angered by zoos, Ostermiller said he doesnt share that belief.I think they have their place. If it wasnt for zoos, some people wouldnt get to experience animals up close at all. But people also need to understand that what theyre looking at isnt the same as what youd see in the wild when you take the spirit away it really isnt the same creature.



Ostermiller almost exclusively sculpts animals, working from photographs he takes of wild and zoo animals, along with live models, to make his large scale bronzes.The large chicken in the exhibit, named Priscilla, was a real chicken who lived at the studio up until she died, Ostermiller said.Priscilla was great she had great form. I also adopt rabbits from the Humane Society and use them for models and they live out their life in luxury at the studio, Ostermiller said. Then if it strikes me, I can just sculpt them right on the spot.Live models would always be Ostermillers preference, he said, but unfortunately bears and elephants are a little more difficult to find.Bella, a pig, and Indigo, a bear, are stationed just a few feet from the proud preening Priscilla, but the big chicken towers over both of the other sculptures. Ostermiller said he enjoys taking what people normally consider to be a small animal and sculpting them way out of proportion.I want it to dominate rather than its surroundings influencing it, it influences its surroundings. I like the surreal quality (the sculptures) get when they get that big.A guest book at the exhibit allows people visiting the sculptures to write their reactions: Big fat chicken is cool, reads the first entry from San Jose, Cali. native, Ryan. A few pages later, boxy, childish letters spell out I love the scultures (sic), Nicole Wilkinson. Below, in similar script, Sophie writes Phenomonal (sic) should be allowed to climb.Arts & Entertainment Writer Caramie Schnell can be reached at 748-2984 or cschnell@vaildaily.com.


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