We had the good fortune of connecting with Dennis Sohocki and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dennis, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Being an artist is all about not just taking, but embracing risks and challenges. As I often tell people, there’s a reason all of your neighbors aren’t professional artists, novelists, etc. It’s because it is extremely difficult to create and maintain a career and lifestyle as a professional artist. While I am traditionally cautious in normal health and safety regards, such as viruses, motorcycles, diet, etc., I do believe, to be an artist, one has to have something to say and share that is meaningful across time and cultural barriers. This has to be based on a life of pushing boundaries and taking risks, of exploration, adventures, and seeking truth. It is through such a journey that one begins to understand and deeply feel the aspects of life and death that are so fundamental to all of us. For example, when I begin a carving in stone, I allow the child in me complete freedom to play, explore, and have an adventure without worrying about where it might lead. If in the process the stone breaks and eventually becomes gravel, so be it. It’s all about being open to the next feeling or inclination or whim that allows me to know my work continues to evolve and be surprising to me over these many decades.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I consider my sculpture to be Classic Modernism. That is, I believe my work follows in the footsteps of such sculptors as Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Picasso, Miro, and Calder. Yet, in many ways, I was inspired by Native American, ancient and prehistoric art and sculpture (petroglyphs, cliff dwellings, Egyptian art, etc.). My rather unique background and set of experiences, combined with my vision and determination, have led me to create only the artwork that I want to create. I work through my subconscious and, because of this, I am always surprised by what appears. I challenge myself after each piece to explore further. I clearly remember the day, walking the streets in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in the mid-1970’s, when it finally struck me like a bolt of lightning that I was going to become a professional sculptor. Because I had no training or education in that field (my last art class was in junior high school and I probably got a C in it), and no ad was going to appear in the newspaper saying “Wanted. Professional Sculptor,” I realized I had to magically declare myself a sculptor and then become one. This involved learning art largely by myself, working my way up from the basics of carving wooden canes and kitchen utensils, and experimenting in various other art forms (e.g. making furniture), until slowly my work began to emerge. During this period, I specifically avoided going to museums and seeing other artist’s work, so as to not be influenced. Instead, I allowed my own vision to take shape.
My brother and I both had to pay for our own college educations. During that process, one learns to be very frugal. For example, when I was at the University of Michigan, I couldn’t afford a food plan, so I instead fed myself with canned goods and a hot plate. This sense of frugality and purpose served me well in my career as an artist. My other passion in life has always been the environment. I was lucky enough, early on, to work part-time fighting for the things I believed in. This passion, while also difficult, was very complementary to my development as an artist.
Quite frankly, I am not concerned about how my work is viewed or remembered. Being a sculptor has allowed me to have the life that I wanted and to share it with many wonderful people. Much more important than me or my work are the themes that I’ve humbly tried to represent: compassion, beauty, love of nature, relationships, and our origins. These are the things I hope people will care about moving forward.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Being a long-time resident of Washington Park, I would of course recommend a visit there. Another favorite of mine is taking long walks at the Highline Canal. Local favorite parks include Red Rocks Park and Roxborough Park, as well as bike rides along Cherry Creek, the South Platte, and elsewhere on our wonderful system of bike paths. For a more serious hike/backpack, I’d recommend Rocky Mountain National Park, as well as the surrounding wilderness areas. There are more hidden gems, such as the Kirkland Museum, the Littleton Historical Museum, and downtown Golden. Since my wife and I are both good cooks, we seldom eat out but, when we do, we always eat locally.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
A Shoutout from me with thanks & love to my collectors & friends, the Loveland High Plains Arts Council, Patina Artist Pat Kipper, Western Sculpting Supply, Bronze Services of Loveland, as well as my sweet wife, Dena.