Homegrown artist receives recognition worldwide
|Darwin Dower's all wood carvings are unique and have ties to Emery County.|
Darwin Dower has gone from very humble beginnings in Emery County, to having his work sought after from a worldwide following.
In 1945, a baby boy was born in Orangeville to a simple, hard working farm family. He would be raised on his grandfather's Thomas Guymon, farm learning to do all the farm chores one would expect. Plowing the fields of the large farm was done with a team of horses, he didn't sit on a tractor until he was 15 or 16.
Everyday, on this dairy farm, he milked, fed, and cleaned up after the cows by hand. "I always hated the farm work, but I will always consider Orangeville my home and I have many fond memories of my years there," said Darwin Dower, a Utah artist who specializes in carving and sculpting wood. He creates finely detailed pieces fashioned after the farm implements from the memories of his youth.
Even as a child, Darwin loved to sketch and paint. While going to South Emery High School, he took a class on oil painting and continued with that love for 30 years. It was in 1981 or 1982, a man approached him to sell a decoy that this man had carved. Darwin thought to himself "I think I could do that." So he gave it a try. He began his carving career carving duck decoys.
Not long after he began carving decoys, he attended an art symposium held at Brigham Young University. The artist who spoke was a highly regarded wood carver. At the conclusion of the symposium, Darwin approached the artist with a decoy he had carved. The artist did not have anything good to say about Darwin's work.
"A little while later I realized he was right," said Darwin. "I wasn't any good at carving duck decoys because I didn't know anything about ducks. I decided that I did know about old farm things like buggies and saddles." That was the beginning of his career carving relics from the past.
When Darwin left Emery County around 1965, he left to attend the College of Eastern Utah. He married a girl from North Emery, Beth Eden, and they began their life together away from the area. He worked for Sear's for 40 years, retiring in 2004 as a regional manager living in St. George. With retail as his career, he spent all the time he could with his art.
|A saddle made completely of wood.|
"I learned to love and respect my life on the farm. It taught me responsibility," said Darwin. He made the decision to carve things he knew about and he knew about farm life. He began sculpting with wood and was soon invited to show his work at the C.M. Russell art show in Great Falls, Mont. He sold almost every piece he had taken with him.
Since that time, Darwin has become a collector of farm relics and has been proficient with his carvings. "At the present time, I am working on a saddle," said Darwin. "I have a real saddle set up nearby. I sit in the saddle and try to imagine the person who rode this, and how they felt and what they did. I have to put myself in that frame of mind. I try to imagine what they would be doing. A good artist has to put himself in that frame of mind. By imagining the person using the saddle, I can recapture the look and feel of it."
Darwin has won many prestigious art competitions including the Rocky Mountain Carver's Cup. He lives in St. George with his wife Beth, and continues to sculpt his wood creations. He works with Tupelo wood which is just harder than pine and has a tight and even grain.
"When I look at a piece of wood, I try to imagine what is inside that piece waiting to get out," said Darwin. "It's been a fun journey. I have become good friends with many professional artists. I have them look at each piece when I finish. I want their criticism. You have to learn from those who are better than yourself. I challenge myself with every piece to make it better that the last."
The Mission Gallery in Ancestor Square in St. George features his original wood sculptures. His work can also be seen at www.darwindower.com.