Running Boy Wolf speaks

Jess Gorman
Granite Falls Advocate Tribune

Often when art lovers set out to hear an artist talk or view a new gallery opening, there are expectations. Some may assume they can forsee where the inspiration comes from for a piece, while others assume the creator will talk about form and composition in their open forum.

Youth artist Dacian Cavender-DeMuth.

However most art aficionados would have never seen Dacian Cavender-DeMuth coming at the recent K.K. Berge Gallery opening of "Running Boy Wolf" after experiencing the breadth of color, and story captured in the works on the wall. Maybe it is because Dacian is six-years-old and about 36 inches high.  

"Running Boy Wolf" features the works of Dacian, a young artist from Pezutazizi K'api, the Upper Sioux Community, who completed some of the pieces in the series when he was as young as four. 

Artist Dacian Cavender-DeMuth used a range of motion to explain his artistic process.

Dacian's art uses direction and perspective in a near savant-like manner to challenge the viewer to see more from every angle. Many pieces in the exhibit are a duplicate of one image, but when turned another direction or quadrupled in print and laid together, the copies, inverts, and reflections of his art can turn a man into a horse, or a brain into a burning ship. 

When asked if he had more works he hoped to display, Dacian eagerly answers, "I wanted to do all of my art but the room was too small." It's a giggle worthy moment for his grinning father, Scott Demuth, who has a home filled with young Cavender-Wilson's treasures. The small artist was faced with tough choices but everything that was included in the exhibit tells a story and marks a moment.

The first piece Dacian leaps to share in the interview is his self portrait. He was three-years-old at the time, and attending a K.K. Berge childrens art and wilderness class on animal tracks. The class was taught by Granite Area Arts Council member Karen Odden. "I broke the rules," says Dacian as he points to the paw print laiden framed piece with a sly smile. He went on to explain he had been instructed to create a book about animal tracks alongside the other attendees. Instead, Dacian dove deep into the animal track stamps, mixing colors and quickly incorporating his small handprints all on one big sheet. "It was the first time really looking back that I had to say: wow. He's creating something really intentional right now. He's making art," said a proud Demuth.   

Youth artist Dacian Cavender-DeMuth explains his exhibit pieces in a personal interview.

Dacian moves the story telling to another wall. As he stands in front of a large dark watercolor circle, strewn across four pages encased in glass, he starts to share the story of the piece. "I was in trouble when I made that," reflects Dacian on his five-year-old self. There was no shame in his voice as he made the statement. No saddened memory of the timeout. He almost seemed to know too clearly the beautiful balance created by the turmoil of his overflowing energy and the art it inevitably produced. When he finished the origin sheet during downtime, Dacian describes throwing the paper at "Dada" and saying "Here, I'm done."  He had chosen watercolors as his down-time activity instead of meditation that day. Upon his completion of the original work, a bold teal background with a solid dark arc cutting across one corner is revealed. The story goes on, "it's a circle," says Dacian to his father.

"Thats not a circle," disagreed his father. "It is two lines."

"Uh, no, you don't understand," retorted Dacian. 

But the days discussion would end there; only to be picked up a year later while preparing for the Running Boy Wolf exhibit.  

Dacian and his father describe sifting through his array of art works from inside their home when Dacian suddenly exclaimed," Oh, it's the circle!" 

Now in a different head space, with open eyes and ears, Demuth asked Dacian to explain. Through the ensuing exchange, Demuth discovered Dacian had viewed the piece as a puzzle, in duplicate. The pair digitally reflected and rotated the origin painting, then printed out copies to provide the missing pieces to the puzzle. Low and behold, when four copies were arranged in correct order, a circle emerged. 

The painting is titled, "The running man and the great race," named for a Dakota story the young artist favors. The works description explains, “Circling the Black Hills, there is a beautiful valley, which Dakota people call the Race Track, stained red with the blood of the runners and animals. By winning the Great Race, the humans were allowed to hunt Buffalo and were made the guardians of Creation.”

Youth artist Dacian Cavender-DeMuth details how one of these four water color pieces inspired the full circle.

His well articulted and story-full exhibit descriptions explain, "Running Boy Wolf is an exhibition of a young artist’s work and creative process. Through layering of multi-dimensional perspective and the reflection/mirroring central to Dakota methodology and cosmology, the deceptively simple scribblings, sketches, and paintings of a child are transformed."

Dacian dances in front of his art as photos are taken. It could just be he is happy to stretch at the interviews end, but it seems more likely he is moving to the beat of his own drum––rythym impeccable, inhibition non-existent. If imposed "down-time" is what moves the boy wolf to produce art like the current mesmermizing display, then sorry, Dacian, the art world hopes you are grounded again soon. 

The "Running Boy Wolf" exhibit will be on display at the K.K. Berge Gallery until October 31. Stop in to the art space to read the expanded stories of Dacian's work next to the original creations. 

Interpretive dance helped artist Dacian Cavender-DeMuth explain his series on exhibit now at the K.K. Berge gallery.