Summerville artist carving in the fast lane

By Dick Mason, The Observer March 12, 2014 10:47 am

Hoyt examines an abstract drawing version of one of his car sculpture designs. (CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)
Hoyt examines an abstract drawing version of one of his car sculpture designs. (CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)
 

Dennis Hoyt’s sculptures draw attention of Kuwait’s prime minister

English race car driver Brian Redman momentarily robbed Summerville artist Dennis Hoyt of his sharp focus several decades ago. 

Redman provided Hoyt with a ride in a Ferarri Testarossa, accelerating to 187 miles per hour.

“I wasn’t frightened, but when you are in a car going almost 200 miles per hour everything is a blur,” Hoyt said.

Today, that ride serves as a metaphor for the last 30 years of Hoyt’s life. His has been a high octane experience, one which started after he began crafting one-of-a kind large wooden sculptures of automobiles in 1984.

These are sculptures people pay as much as $200,000 for and are attracting increasing international attention. The latter was evident recently when Hoyt learned from his agent that Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, the prime minister of Kuwait, had asked him to come to his nation to put on a show of his sculptures.

Dennis Hoyt of Summerville holds a picture of one of his automobile sculptures, which he creates from wood. He has made about 240 during his career. The sculptures can cost as much as $200,000 and are attracting increasing international attention. (CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)
Dennis Hoyt of Summerville holds a picture of one of his automobile sculptures, which he creates from wood. He has made about 240 during his career. The sculptures can cost as much as $200,000 and are attracting increasing international attention. (CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)
 

Hoyt has agreed and will make about seven auto sculptures for the event. A date has not been set for the show, but Hoyt does know that all of his expenses will be paid. The expenses covered will include the cost of shipping his sculptures to and from Kuwait. Hoyt will receive an appearance fee, but that doesn’t explain the primary reason he is excited about going to Kuwait for the show.

“It may open up a new market for me. It will get my foot in the door,” said Hoyt, who moved to the Summerville area 1-1/2 years ago from Western Oregon.

Hoyt will face stress while preparing for the show in Kuwait but he is not complaining.

“I am used to pressure,” said Hoyt, who said he may hire people in this area to help him create works for the Kuwait show. 

Hoyt enjoys a growing worldwide reputation but that is not keeping him from extending a hand to the Union County community. This summer he will be reaching out to the Friday Backpack Program, which provides weekend food to children from low-income families in Union County. Hoyt will use his artistic skills to help the program raise money.

Hoyt also will assist the Timber Cruisers Car Show at La Grande’s Crazy Days celebration in July. The winner of the car show will be able to choose from one of three sculptures of 1957 cars made by Hoyt. Each of the three will be worth about $5,500.

Hoyt’s wooden sculptures, which average 6 to 7 feet long, are made from basswood he has shipped in from Iowa and Wisconsin. The artist believes he is the only person in the world to make such sculptures. 

Why is he alone?

“Nobody else is crazy enough to do it,” Hoyt said. “It is very time consuming and complicated.”

Each of Hoyt’s works is unique out of necessity.

“I can’t make the same piece twice,” he said.

Hoyt explained that many of his clients are extremely wealthy people who are paying to have something nobody else has.

“They don’t want to see the same piece somewhere else. I’m dealing with egos,” he said.

Hoyt spent the first part of his artistic career creating sculptures of wildlife and nature scenes from wood. He switched to automobiles at the urging of his wife, Susan.

“If it hadn’t been for my wife, I wouldn’t be doing this,” Hoyt said. “She knew that cars were my passion.”

Hoyt’s sculptures are not replicas of cars but instead are his artistic interpretations of certain models. All have design features that provide a sense of speed. The artist is delighted when people tell him that this sense of speed is not implied or subtle but rather “intense and immediate.”

Hoyt and his wife moved to the Grande Ronde Valley to get away from the crowds and congestion that were encroaching on their rural lifestyle in Western Oregon.

“The country wasn’t so quiet,” Hoyt said.

Hoyt’s works have received rave reviews, but the perfectionist is far from completely happy with his final products. 

“I’m never satisfied. There is always something I could do to make it better,” he said.