By Bonnie Gangelhoff
For David Nittmann, wood has been a way of life for as long as he can remember. When he was growing up in Bolton Landing, NY, his great-grandfather and grandfather were boat builders. “They gave me the feeling that wood is just a wonderful substance to work with,” Nittmann says.
He recalls playing in their woodshops, and later his first paid job was as a sweeper in a wooden-toy factory. Before starting his own cabinet business, he was employed in the commercial and residential construction business. Today his interests in wood fall into the fine-art realm as he is an accomplished, award-winning wood turner. This month he is showing his imaginative turned-wood pieces at the prestigious Smithsonian Craft Show at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC.
For the Governor’s show, he is presenting a piece entitled TALKING BACK TO THE NIGHT. Nittmann says the work reflects his thoughts on his loss of hearing and fear of the dark. The striking design on the large platter made of maple mimics the shape of an 1800s-style ear trumpet that hearing-loss victims used to amplify and direct sound. The wood piece also features one of Nittmann’s signature designs—a Southwestern-inspired pattern or motif.
In TALKING BACK TO THE NIGHT, as in all of his works, Nittmann spent hundreds of hours in a painstaking, multistep process that includes working on a lathe, burning in details, designing patterns, and choosing colors. “I am trying to convey that it’s possible to produce an art piece in wood. Wood has such a long history of utilitarian uses, and the battle continues to show it can be used as an art form, too,” Nittmann says. “What I’m really doing is taking a piece of wood and creating a canvas out of it, while bringing my sense of design and color to it.”
But even more than that, Nittmann says, the most important thing viewers should know about his works is that each piece is a work of love created from his heart. He is represented by Wiford Gallery, Santa Fe, NM; www.davidnittmann.com.
Featured in April 2012.