Saturday, November 14, 2009

Hook, Line and Sinker

The thing about Del Loose’s artwork is there isn’t a single thing about it. It requires time for the viewer to take in the parts of its sum.
Loose welds together found metal objects to create sculptures. He’s only been working at it for about six months, but he’s churned out a school of salmon, flocks of birds and is beginning to dabble with the human form.
Kebanu Art Gallery owner Keith Null learned quickly what a draw Loose’s works could be.
“Every time I look out the window there are people staring in at his fish. Then they come in to see the other side,” said Null.

Null had seen other artists working in the same medium, but something about Loose’s style spoke to him in a way others didn’t.
“It’s really quite amazing,” said Null. “Other people are doing similar work, but Del’s is so well done.”
One of the first art projects Loose remembers producing is a jewelry box in his seventh grade woodshop class at Judson Middle School in Salem.
“I’ll always remember the teacher because he was missing half his thumb. He probably wasn’t the best woodworker, but he was an artist who did pottery on the side,” said Loose.
Showing the jewelry box to his father elicited a reaction he wasn’t expecting.
“I’m one of nine kids and my father wasn’t real quick to hand out compliments. When he got excited over the jewelry box, it really meant something. I wanted to start making things that others could appreciate,” said Loose.
He continued to work at it over the years with varying degrees of commitment, but last Thanksgiving he found a medium that suited him.
“I was in the mall and saw this fish made out of found metal objects, but shaped like a bottom fish and nothing we would recognize here in the Northwest,” he said.
Armed with an idea and a bit of experience welding, Loose began collecting the pieces he would need to assemble a salmon: an old golf club, bolts, screws, drill bits, combination locks, nail clippers and castoff utensils.
“I learned that it’s very easy to make big mistakes and it’s not like Play-Doh where if you don’t like it you can just change it,” he said.
When he was done, he took the fish to a friend’s home in Bend to show it off. The friend encouraged him to show it to some of the local galleries. Null quickly snapped it up.
“That first one was really quite amazing, but then he brought in a new one. He’d added a curve to the body and an open mouth. It was even better,” said Null.
Loose said he was surprised at the positive feedback.
“I thought it was cool, but I guess I wasn’t sure other people would,” he said.
He began looking around to see what other artists working with the same tools had come up with. Birds were abundant so he decided that would be his next project.
“I started sketching out some ideas and then got a pile of crap together and tried to figure out how to make it work,” he said.
Ball bearings and spoons were combined to form an avian creation. Each has a unique character.
“Sometimes it’s just the pose, but you can do it with different numbers of tail feathers, too,” he said.
When asked whether the foul are modeled after any particular species, Loose replies:
“Is a snipe a bird?”
Loose collects his materials from scrap metal yards, garage sales and estate sales. He’d never been to the latter before he started sculpting.
“Some guys at work told me I should give them a try because there were good deals, but I had to get there early,” Loose said.
He found one in the paper that began at 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning. He arrived at 8:45, there was no parking for two blocks and 50 people were milling about in front of the home.
“As I was turning around there was an older couple, like 65 or 70 years old, and they’re running. It’s kind of been an eye-opener to the value of things,” he said.
He’s also been fortunate in that his employer, Rogers Machinery Company, has allowed him to reuse discarded parts from air compressor and hydraulic machine tear-downs. A white cardboard box, marked “Save for Del,” sits in one corner of his workshop.
Loose, 34, recently began experimenting with the human form. His first project was a skier that stands about a foot-and-a-half tall. Like the salmon, it was a learning experience.
“It’s very difficult to take tools and make a human figure that doesn’t look like a robot,” he said.
He hopes to create a head-to-waist bust of a female figure one day. For now, he wants to be certain his work continues to be as original as he can make it.
“I want to continue to come up with new things. I have lots of ideas, but it takes a lot of work to pull out the good ones,” he said.
To contact Loose for commissioned work, e-mail him at:

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