Shaped By Life

With metal as his medium, sculptor David Marshall has created an enormous volume of work over the last 50 years, inspired by travel, adventure, nature and the urge to create.

Sculptor David Marshall and his wife Dagmar are at Gallery 89 in downtown Steamboat, where his oversized pick-up truck is parked out front and he is preparing to open a show at the February 3 First Friday Art Walk. The back of his truck is full of enormous pieces for his upcoming show, that have been delivered from his Spanish Studio to the barn on the Hahn’s Peak property where the couple spends four months a year.

Marshall doesn’t subscribe to the pretention and politics of the art world. His work is inspired by his travels to places like India, Bali, Thailand, Indonesia and Burma—not to mention his compulsion to create fine art out of scraps of just about anything that captures his imagination.

Originally from Edinberg, Scotland, Marshall settled in Southern Spain here he began his art career.  A self-taught sculptor, he began creating pieces out of metal from molds and combining anything and everything (think: wood, glass, pieces of farming equipment, car parts, horns, and more). The pieces he’s selected for his opening at Gallery 89 include an abstract piece made with rice tiller from Bali, a coffee table with a base made from molds of Kudu Horns from South Africa, intricate skulls with glass from Bali and local Beatle Kill pine.

At 75, he has a head full of shaggy thick hair, his pale blue eyes tired but still dancing with mischief. It’s true he’s been working as a sculptor for a long time, but his volume of work is still mind-boggling. In addition to a large archive of fine art, he’s also grown a burgeoning internationally renowned business doing large-scale custom commercial work for architects, interior designers, corporate clients, and VIPs. He has an extensive offering of furniture and accessories, including jewelry.

“I don’t know why I make this stuff, I just do,” Marshall says. “Part of it is creative but mostly it’s just bloody hard work.”

We frequently veer off topic, so Dagmar (who is originally from Germany and clearly the ying to Marshall’s yang) has to fill in the blanks. Here’s the gist, at least, of how David Marshall feels about some of these things:

On fine art versus commercial work.
I do abstract and then I get fed up and then I do something more realistic. I work with architects and interior designers and do a lot of commercial work. I made trophies for Eva Longoria’s foundation, did cutlery for Christian Dior, presentation stuff for BMW, and once I did a 5-story spiral staircase for a hotel in Dubai. I’ve always been quite lucky working with people who know my style and let me create my own design. Sculpture and commercial work are two different things but it all works from the same point of view in the sense that I use the same casting techniques. But for the last 15 years I’ve concentrated more on sculpture because I got fed up with the commercial stuff. My daughter runs that part of my business now.

On discovery.
In 1962 I took a motorcycle to South America from Canada and ended up in Columbia. I didn’t have any money. I was completely broke. I won’t tell you all the nasty stories about what I had to do to make a living working as welder, but it’s there that I got into metal. I started playing around with all the junk laying around the electric plant and it all went on from there. I’m not sure why. I guess it’s the business of being creative.

On working with metal.
Hardly anyone does sand casting anymore – I heat aluminum or brass in a crucible and cast into hand-carved styrofoam molds which burn out and disappear so that each piece is totally original.  It’s a very old process – 3000 years old. You pour the metal in and then you lose the mold and it leaves this sort of grainy texture. Then I work with it afterwards. People have this idea that as a sculptor you just float around and the sculpture appears, but I come in and I’m covered in black soot, and I’m cursing and swearing.

On inspiration.
You pick up a lot of things when you’re traveling and working with people. You learn things and you become influenced by shapes and forms that you normally wouldn’t see if you just sat at home. Here in Steamboat I’m inspired here by all the detritus; you have the ice, the snow, the forms you see. Even the beetle kill, the way the trees are all falling to pieces is something to see.

On the creative process.
I like making things. I can’t tell you why or where it comes from. There’s something there that has to come out. There’s a lot of B.S. written by art critics; they have about 35 different phrases they like to use. I guess they learn that in art college but I never went to art college. I went to South America with two pesos and that was it.

On Steamboat.
We were skiing in Aspen and someone said you have to go to Steamboat Springs. We said, “Where’s that?!” We came up here and fell in love with it. We bought our house within two days. That was eight years ago. It’s very friendly, and very quickly you make friends here. Americans are so enthusiastic. Europeans are too blasé and cynical. Americans believe there’s a future in life

We love spending time here. It’s a whole new world.


Check out David Marshall’s work on exhibit through the month of February at GALLERY 89 in downtown Steamboat or VISIT HIS WEBSITE.