Click on photos to enlarge.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

David L. Hostetler

Jazz Woman, 2001, David L. Hostetler
A common feature of many artists' resumes is the often long list of presumably notable artists under whom the resume's owner has studied. Probably no one has ever heard of them but I studied under the painters William Kortlander and Gary Pettigrew, neither of which had any influence on my style. They were both professors at Ohio University and during the early 70s and both are now retired. Also teaching there at the time was an artist, a sculptor of some renown now (not so much then), named  David L. Hostetler. I never studied under him (I was an art-Ed major), I once painted a giant Nasturtium on a bulletin board in his office, though.  (Six feet tall that sucker was.) Given the game of "musical offices" played at most universities, it has, no doubt, by now joined the list of famous "lost" works by Jim Lane, but it's kind of my one, pathetic, "claim to fame," so to speak. Though Professor Hostetler was known mostly just in the local area at the time, and many of his best works were yet in the future, even then there was the sense of being in the presence of a great master. I remember his thanking me for the Nasturtium and remarking that it was technically quite good (read uninspired). Hey, I was a freshman at the time.

Homage to Woman I, 1997,
David L. Hostetler
David Hostetler has always worked mostly in wood, though a few of his pieces he casts in bronze for outside placement. He is somewhat unique in that his entire career has been devoted to a single subject--the female form. They are carved in a sleek, simplified style from native hardwoods, with hair and clothes stained or painted into the wood  In some cases they are highly finished, in others, there is a "chipped" texture. Faces are stylized to an aerodynamic extent, arms often minimized or merely implied, and legs usually enclosed by the sweeping lines echoing the tree itself--kind of a contemporary version of Bernini's "Apollo and Daphne" minus the Apollo. His works range in size from about half life-size to about twice life size for some of his bronze pieces.

Hostetler poses next to his
figural group, Duo, near the
Trump Tower in New York.

Born in Beach, Ohio, in 1926, Hostetler comes from Amish roots, though he has also taken up the study of Judaism with an eye toward converting. He came out of Indiana University to O. U. where he received his masters degree, graduating from student to instructor. Among his more well-known students are Jim Dine, David True, and Harvey Breverman. Art teachers have lists too you know. Hostetler discovered art as a result of having been wounded in W.W.II. Recovering, he was given a Red Cross packet of art supplies through which he discovered his love of drawing by sketching the female nurses in the hospital. He's been sketching them ever since, though more diversely in the guise of wives, mothers, goddesses, temptresses and queens. Today, retired after some sixty years of chipping and chopping, Hostetler and his wife live on a 40-acre farm not far from Athens. His work can be found in over 25 major museums around the country and hundreds of private collections. In New York City there rests a bronze figural group called "Duo" in a small park next to the Trump Tower.  He knows Donald Trump personally. I could use a commission like that. Wonder if I could get him to introduce me? Wonder if he remembers me? Wonder if he even remembers the Nasturtium?


  1. I studied with David Hostetler in 1976-77. I remember his slide shows of his art park from the 60s. It was kind of an art happening on his property - people camped and built structures like yurts and did art things. The locals did not appreciate the project and it died out. I did some wood carving in his sculpture class and cut my finger really deep with a curved gouge. I have a scar from that episode.

  2. I, too, recall the art park, Bear Wallow Hollow, as a freshman at O.U. around 1970. It was still in the early formative stages at the time, but I did get to spend a lively afternoon exploring all the ingenuity sprouting up from the newly bulldozed paths and lush underbrush.