Sculptor Jason Waldron calls his newer works “found art wood sculptures.” From pieces of gnarled juniper, pine and other woods, Waldron assembles diving eagles and regal hawks with a minimum of carving, just enough to expose a beak here, an eye there.
“I look for the connections and piece them together,” said Waldron, who speaks frankly about the role his faith plays in his artistry.
Waldron joined Lahaina Galleries this past winter and will participate in the Old Mill District gallery's 10th anniversary (and 36th as a company with galleries in California and Hawaii) from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday (see “If you go”). The event will also find at the gallery, among others, Aldo Luongo, a former professional soccer player from Argentina turned romantic impressionist painter; Robert Bissell, an “imaginary realist” whose animal-filled landscapes are popular with collectors; and Hisashi Otsuka, who paints on canvases of silk.
Which is pretty good company for Waldron to be keeping.
“It's unheard of for an artist who hasn't been in ... a high-end gallery” before to become represented by such a gallery, Waldron said. “I shot for the moon” when he approached Lahaina staff, he said.
Waldron hit the moon. Eventually.
“They didn't have space at the time, so I ... just kept doing what I was doing,” he said. A few months later, he received an email offering to join the gallery.
“Boy, was that a great moment,” Waldron said, still sounding, well, over the moon. “They've been incredible. Honestly, a lot like family.”
Waldron grew up dividing his time between Bend and San Diego. He's been a professional artist for the last 12 years, starting as a wood carver working with chainsaws. (He also does ice sculptures and has even done some bronze work.)
With chainsaws, “you just pretty much dominate the wood,” he said. Over the last few years he began to explore what he can do to “balance the natural character of the wood, and what I can add on to it and accentuate it.”
Waldon said he's a strange sight on hiking trails.
“I have a huge pack for hiking out in the woods and stuff. I kind of just start strapping pieces to it and stuff. I look probably like ... I don't know what I look like. Probably a freak.”
He will not pick up any pieces of wood still stuck in the ground, he said. “I want to respect nature.”
Waldron prefers to work with any type of High Desert wood — manzanita, pine, sage and juniper. “Juniper has a lot of character to it. It makes my job a lot easier when the movement, color and the textures are already in there,” he said.
When he does wood carvings like the five-foot-tall “Ascension,” he prefers the twisted offerings of juniper. Then there's “Grace,” one of his found art wood sculptures, a large sculpture of a torso on a cross.
Waldron had been living in California prior to returning to Bend three years ago — about the same time his relationship with Jesus Christ took a leap forward.
“Throughout my life, I've had perceived ideas, based on our culture, of who Christ is, and what that looks like,” Waldron said.
“As I was moving up here was when I really opened myself up. He softened my heart up enough that I could start authentically looking at the individual person of who He is. 'Grace' is a huge part of that.”
Among his large, found-wood works is “Boundless,” that plunging eagle with a wing span of nearly 10 feet.
“This is called 'Boundless' because at the time (of its creation), I was shown that my perceived limitations were just that,” Waldron said. “They're perceived limitations, and God is the one that defines my limitations. And therefore I'm boundless, because He's boundless.”
Waldron said he's been both “commended and criticized for the serendipitous nature of this process,” referring to his approach to art.
“Who criticizes it?” asks an incredulous reporter.
“It's me,” said Beau Killett, of the gallery.
Turns out he's just kidding, but Killett is fond of asking visitors to identify the shapes — birds, fish and human — that Waldron has hanging in the gallery.
The stumper for this reporter was “Ascension.” It's a beautiful length of twisted, shiny juniper trunk into which Waldron has carved ... something.
“I'm guessing muscle,” I guess incorrectly.
“He showed me one of them, and I got it,” said Killett. “Here's a fin. Here's another fin. Here's the gills.”
“Ohh.” They're fish. Waldron has carved, subtly, several trout swimming upstream, as though their backs just barely break the surface of the water/wood.
It's almost as though he's merely chipped it away to reveal something that was swimming below the surface to begin with — which is his intention.
“I really wanted to accent the character of the wood without carving too much away,” Waldron said. “I wanted to use the movement, for one. It was very fluid.”
“You see people create things out of juniper, but never like this,” Killett said. “As soon as I heard he was bringing up a juniper sculpture, I was like, 'Uhhh.' And then as soon as I saw it, I was like, 'Wow.'”
Waldron said that when he was a younger artist, the most attention and love he received came from his artwork. He calls the craving for more of that attention “misplaced.”
“If somebody didn't like a piece, then I was crushed,” he said. “If they liked it a lot, then I was built up. That's not the way it is anymore. I've been shown that my true value and worth is not bound in anything other than God.”