There is a tendency amongst us all to champion our own skills and achievements yet fail to acknowledge the undefinable factors that molded us, opened doors, and made possible our very being as artists. I firmly believe there are no original ideas in any form of artistic expression, all we really do is recycle what our predecessors have already done for millennia. What I may feel to be my uniquely brilliant, sudden and spontaneous idea is the amalgam of untold prior experiences, human relationships, sights, smells, sounds, and momentary interactions with my surroundings. The germ of an idea I have today may be the result of a long forgotten and seemingly insignificant glimpse at a flower, a song heard, an aroma experienced, a hug, a touch, a pang of loss, or even another person’s artistic creation. At this point, I could not begin to sort through all the myriad things that have influenced my body of work as a sculptor. I can however pay respect and homage to a few individuals who clearly made a unique and immense impact on getting me to this point as a sculptor.
JANET AND MIKE MIKITKA
My parents always looked out for my brother, two sisters and me, providing a loving and stable home despite very limited means. Never seeking or expecting accolades, they were simply good and decent folk. I learned the value of making the most of what you had, figuring out how to take care of, repair and make the things others typically bought or paid someone else to do and in general, the undefinable rewards of purposefully hard work. I can’t begin to define and quantify the role they played in my life.
My grandfather was a lone teenager when he made his way to the United States to escape the Communist takeover of Russia in 1917. He was a finish carpenter by trade and could make anything out of anything. He typically worked alone building houses, making his extraordinarily beautiful balalaikas, travel trailers and campers, and pretty much everything and anything he needed. I often watched him create some simple and useful tool or gadget from an apparently worthless left-over scrap of wood or old tin can. Observing my grandfather, I gained the aptitude for seeing the potential of some seemingly insignificant item, knowing it could in future be used in new and totally unpredictable ways.
STANLEY F. HARBER
Mr. Harber taught crafts in my high school. Taking his class as a young hippie sophomore, I was introduced to the art of lost wax casting, and worked with metals, glass, leather, and ceramics. Recognizing my interest and potential, he allowed me to audit his class for the next two years and essentially proceed independently as I wished. He taught me to weld and was the first to push me beyond simply dabbling randomly in various forms of arts and crafts. Mr. Harbor encouraged me to enter one of my first welded steel works in the Scholastic Arts Competition and I was honored with the Blue Ribbon for the State of Arizona. That was a signal turning point when I realized that creating art could be something significantly more than just a simple hobby. For what it’s worth, my favorite memory was him telling me, “Dave, if you don’t piss off at least one person a day, you’re not living right.”
Rebecca Low is a highly successful sculptor, gallery owner, and widely respected mover in the Fort Worth art scene. She has extensively provided beautiful works displayed in both public and private settings throughout Texas. I had a chance encounter with Rebecca about ten years ago when I was still casually playing around and dabbling with my work. I mentioned I sculpted and asked if she would mind if I e-mailed her a picture from home, hoping to get the perspective of a real artist. Though being very polite and gracious by agreeing to my request, I could tell she was just trying to be nice and not crush my feelings as a mere amateur. I decided on a pic of Matt Ponders Three and probably three minutes after I hit send, I got a furious response that read something to the effect of, “Holy crap, bring that piece down here right now!” So, I loaded it up as well as several other things I had lying around. When I got to the gallery, she began placing my work into separate groups and I asked what was the point. She told me she was keeping about half of them to display in her gallery. It took me a few minutes to wrap my head around that and understand another signal moment in my life was actually occurring. Since our first meeting, she has been a solid fan, supporting and guiding my growth as an artist. A dear and true friend and valued mentor, Rebecca continues to be the greatest and most significant influence as I continue on this artistic path.