STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Metal sculptor David Marshall maneuvers a crowbar to pry open a wooden crate, which has just arrived from Spain in his North Routt-based studio. He is anxious to exam the 12 brass and aluminum wall mounts, which will be part of a show this month titled “Tracks and Traces” at Gallery 89.
The 77-year-old acclaimed artist, who divides his time between his main residence in the hillside hamlet of Benaoján, Spain, and a home in North Routt, is here to celebrate a 50-year milestone in his illustrious career. He has affectionately dubbed the “Tracks” element of the show as his legacy works.
Inspiration for the 12 metal imprints came to Marshall earlier this year on a scorching afternoon in the middle of the Moroccan desert. During an epic ride on a motorbike trip with long-time friends, he studied the sandy ground marked with minuscule trails winding in all directions.
“I was completely struck by these tracks — what made them and how long would they be there before nature or human contact wiped them away for good?” Marshall said. “It made me question: Are we actually leaving anything behind when we go off, and what makes a track? Is it something that has been printed, written, built, invented or an action?”
He returned to Spain and scoured sketchbooks, which he had filled with etchings amassed from a lifelong fascination of shapes observed in nature throughout the world. He built molds and set about casting imprints derived from his imagination. The three-month creative process of crafting “Tracks” was interspersed by working on his third collaboration with Steamboat-based glass artist Jennifer Baker.
During one of many lengthy brainstorming sessions, the duo chose to showcase their artistic exploration and appreciation of nature’s formations.
“I love looking at formations and thinking how did that come to be? — I see so much beauty around us, and it needs to be celebrated and cherished as our environment continues to change,” Baker said.
Eight freestanding pieces seamlessly blend the two mediums of metal and glass, which is a feat in more ways than one.
Marshall’s work is done in Spain, shipped across the Atlantic Ocean, where Baker takes over to complete her part of the process.
“When I take over the piece and work with the carvings, I am making my own trail on a pathway that connects with David’s,” she said.
“Tracks and Traces” is a celebration of landscapes shaped by ice, water and living creatures, with Marshall’s own tracks leaving a distinctive mark.
Suzi Mitchell is a contributing writer for the Steamboat Pilot & Today.