From a rearing horse’s flying mane and tail to two eagles fighting over a catch, there is one word to describe Jim Dehne’s iron creations: soaring.
Despite being constructed of iron rebar and rods, the sculptures seem to defy gravity. Even a sculpted bronc rider appears to be flying as he is getting thrown from his mount.
While he gets a lot of satisfaction from his craft, Dehne finds it difficult at times to explain how his creative process works.
“I saw all these lines in my head and I thought I was crazy,” Dehne said. “I think I always thought an artist is, maybe, way up somewhere and I could never be one. I did somewhat enjoy so many different things I’ve done in the past, but this bending and twisting iron and putting them together so others get a smile and can see movement or whatever feeling makes me know the reason I did so many other things preparing (for the hobby).”
Dehne believes the journey to becoming a metal sculptor wasn’t an accident and the work and experiences of his past played a role in bringing out the artist in him. This realization has led him to understand everyone has some special gift, whether they are farmers or parents or writers or artists.
“I was being prepared for the real reason I’m here,” Dehne said. “People always ask me where this came from. Well, I never had an art class. It was a gift given to me; I was given this gift and what a joy.”
Drawing his inspiration from animals and nature, Dehne started his venture into metal work by creating flowers and insects such as butterflies and dragonflies. Over the years, he has expanded to much larger subjects to include birds, deer, horses, bison, elk and moose. It’s likely he was inspired to create the larger wildlife after he spent three years in Alaska while in the Army.
Upon discharge from the Army, Dehne spent six years in Alaska working in construction. He went on to receive schooling to become a nurse but then returned to the home farm near Newton where he farmed for 18 years, milking a herd of Jerseys.
He learned to do iron work as part of the farm’s operation. Under the tutelage of his father and uncle who were welders on submarines in the 1940s, Dehne learned to weld, using the skill to repair and build equipment for the farm.
In addition to learning metal fabrication skills, Dehne’s life as a farmer instilled a work ethic that’s transferred to his hobby. He puts in long days in his Point Creek Farm welding shop.
“I was a dairy farmer; I start welding at 5 a.m.,” Dehne said. “But the time I spend in my shop is therapy.”
In developing the artistic aspects of metal work, Dehne credits other artists he has met at art shows. Among the qualities he acquired has been to not overanalyze a piece.
“I don’t do anything until I have (the sculpture design) all figured out in my head,” Dehne said. “If you stand back (to look over the sculpture), you’ll change it.”
Using different gauge wire for the various parts of the sculpture, Dehne will bend and twist the various size wires to create the shape of the animal. He uses a copper compound on the wire to create highlights, adding contrast to the black of the rest of the sculpture.
Dehne accepts commissions for sculptures and functional structures such as benches and gates.
Each year with the help of his son, Dehne loads up his sculptures and takes them to five or six shows or fairs. In addition to being a regular at the Midwest Horse Fair since 2004 and the Minnesota Horse Expo since 2005, Dehne hauls to events elsewhere in Minnesota and Illinois, Arizona, Colorado and Texas.
Despite the logistics of hauling his large-scale sculptures to shows and fairs, Dehne enjoys going to events and socializing with those who stop by to see his creations.
His wildlife creations are popular in Minnesota. The city of Edina has Dehne’s “3 Dancing Sandhill Cranes” as part of the city’s public art permanent collection. The birds are displayed standing on boulders in the middle of the pedestrian trail’s pond located in the city’s promenade.
The National Eagle Center will have one of his sculptures on display in the fall and a zoo in Iowa has some of his bears exhibited.
In addition to help with hauling the sculptures to shows, Dehne’s son gets the word out about his father’s work on the artist’s website. Dehne believes his son’s help has been instrumental in getting the sculptures the exposure they’ve received.
Photos of the sculptures and contact information can be found by visiting the website at www.ptcreek.com.