It’s a magical thing, this business of Dave DeRan showing his latest works of art. He usually sends me a card announcing the ‘upcoming event’ but I never seem to get it in time to put a little blurb in the paper.
So, here I sit today, in his solar sunspace listening to “Blackberry Rag” being picked and strummed by an informal assembly of fellas on banjo, base, fiddle and guitar. This is some hot crew of pickers for sure.
The scene is otherworldly to be honest and I’m surrounded by Dave’s art on the walls, the music pleasing my soul, and folks enjoying themselves…all with an aura that money can’t buy and tickets not for sale. Some of his pals stop by to lend a hand and encourage the proceedings and everyone here seems happy to take part. It’s not so much an art show or opening as it is a bi-annual thing where folks just wander in and out, including pickers, artists, pals and customers.
An elegant lady sitting in the living room gets my attention, asking me if I was who I am. It’s Dorothy Cox and it’s been a while since I’ve last seen her. She says she’s a regular reader of my scribble and now is staying with Joan Heaps, over on Whiteford Road. Dorothy is as sharp as a tack and we have a great conversation. What a gal, and pretty as Cinderella at her best. This is the kind of thing that unexpectedly happens at all of Dave’s ‘events’.
Sitting at a family desk in a bit of pleasant reverie, I find myself looking on the walls at assorted turtles – map turtles, wood turtles, and box turtles – and I notice a pair of Holstein’s looking back at me while standing in a meadow. Glancing to the right there are abstract patterns made of shadows on snow, each one recalling days spent by me on the same spots where Dave has taken pen to paper and forever etched that mood on canvas or masonite.
Today, it is brisk outside, windy too, and Dave’s hair like most of us looks like he combed it with a firecracker. He ambles around the house, upstairs then down, taking time to chat with Dorothy and others, glancing in at the pickers and players, then back upstairs to his little lair where all the art comes to fruition.
Dave DeRan is quite talented and a rather prolific artist, more and more artwork each year it seems to me revealed by the dates on the work on the walls today, 2010. It just keeps coming and selling. Many years ago one of the first paintings of his that caught my eye was an old tenant house sitting in a field. It brought to mind the tenant houses on our farm, and like so much of Dave’s work, it transcends time and space and age and loss. Thankfully, it’s here forever when he paints it.
The music seems to come back strong and there are banjos over in the other room harmonizing with something never before heard by my ears. The fiddler singing and banjos plunking all add to the overall atmosphere of a celebration of life and the love of art. Sometimes at these little soirées Dave will take a break and pick up his bass and join in the playing and picking.
Art comes in many varied forms at Dave’s place on days like this. Add to this combination the smell of hot cider, fresh baked cookies and chocolatey brownies and you have what mall stores and WaWa can only dream of.
Here the game isn’t to sell anything really, it’s to enjoy what’s there and take your time about it. No hustle, or bustle, just laid back tunes, a laid back group of folks to meet and say hi to, and if perchance you want a piece of this day to take home, well that is fine too, and Dave will accommodate you in that.
His work is all around my home, each depicting a time or place in my experience that somehow he captured. Some of the works look like he came to my place and painted all day, with one in particular just for me. That obviously isn’t the case, but to many of those who appreciate his work, it sure seems that way. That’s part of the magic in coming out to the shows, and taking it all in.
His unique ‘boxes’ are a trip as well, a clown holding a lizard’ is here and still amazes me, as well as any visitor who happens to glance at it. Realism and attention to detail and his unmistakable style are what have endured and improved over the years.
As I write this the two Holsteins grazing are looking back at me from their frame on the wall by the family desk. I don’t know a ‘map turtle’ from a ‘bog turtle’, so the Holsteins offer me some sense of recognition. Box turtles, snapping turtles and spotted and painted turtles are about my limit, but with each visit to Dave’s I see and identify another species.
Thus, with life and art perhaps some of us are drawn to the familiar in a new and unfamiliar form. Across the room the pickers are tighter than ever, livening up the ebb and flow of guests as they are greeted by Roxanne, aka Mrs. DeRan, in the kitchen where her table is filled to the brim with munchies of every description. Helping out is MacKenzie Altland, 13, who seems to be everywhere. Later today at the conclusion of the showing, I’m told there will be a memorial service for a friend of the family, just adding another dimension to the home.
To this end, it’s as though you are just dropping by a friend’s home for a quick visit, but stick around to see the new work on the wall, the tunes in the sunspace and talk to folks you haven’t seen since the last time you were there.
The events are unlike any other gallery shows or openings that I’ve been to. The uniqueness of Dave’s would be hard to duplicate by any other artist, and the way they have evolved over the years has retained an honesty and openness, while occasionally adding some new twists. One of which is today…Dave attire is ‘semi-casual, with a down-dressing theme’, today, he sports a necktie…with dress shirt outside the pants….yes, a necktie. Pretty spiffy for a fella who usually looks like the guy in a hardware store behind the counter asking you how many pounds of nails you’ll be needing.
So it is, a couple or three times a year, on my meandering through Delta that I head to Pike’s Peak Road on the east side of town and free myself from all earthly cares with music and scenes of the land we all love to nurture the soul. It doesn’t seem to end until at some point I just let go and decide to head home, with or without another piece of artwork from this truly gifted individual. He’s living and creating right under our noses and conveying scenes we’ve all experienced and appreciated. We rarely see him until days like today when he unwraps the goodies and says, “Well, here’s what I’ve been up to since the last time.”
On the walls of our homes we don’t see Dave, instead we see what we have seen all along in our daily lives, and it’s relevant to our environment, he just puts it down permanently as the old barns fall, and tenant houses disappear along with the farmlands.
We find ourselves looking for the next time we wander in the woods or pause along a creek bank to glimpse a heron or spotted turtle before they glimpse us. Then the creature is gone, unless you want to see it again, in the same spot at the same time, or when you visit Dave DeRan’s and see it all over again for the first time by way of his art.
PHOTOGRAPH BY TODD HOLDEN