The Art Of Jeff Decker
For those of you who don't know who Jeff Decker is, let's just say he won't be the guy with "love nuggets" stuck all over a stock bike with accompanying factory chrome bolt-ons. He'll be the guy on a bike that most will not even recognize yet in fact will be cooler than anything in that particular time zone.
Some gave curious glances, some studied them more than any other bike on the Grease Monkey Mayhem lot, and for very good reason, but an amazing amount of "bikers" didn't even give them a second glance. Different strokes, or simply not getting it; your guess is as good as mine.
Many people know Jeff as the country's best lost wax/bronze artist and as the Harley-Davidson licensed sculptor-Milwaukee would seem to agree. To some, he is a vast encyclopedia for early motorcycle history. To watch him and Lonnie Isam of Competition Distributing talk about the early board trackers and motorcycles from that period will make the hair stand up on the back of your neck and will leave you feeling like an impotent little girl in your ignorance. Don't worry; they humble most of today's industry giants as well.
Highly intelligent and gifted artists are a special breed, usually very onconformist and independent; the inability to compromise their art often leads into their personal lives. In short, they more often than not end up being called "dysfunctional." Unable to cope with "normalcy" or the ineptitude of others (real or, at times, imagined), their lives are often misunderstood by the layman and those of "higher education" alike, with their only true respect coming from their peers. Unfortunately, and again, more often than not, the general public rarely, if at all, appreciates these "dysfunctionals" until they're gone.
With Jeff, nothing could be further from the truth. His family and business life would be an example for any man to follow. I am very fortunate to call him friend and was privileged to get to spend some time with him and his family recently. The premise of my visit was to get an article for a magazine; the reality was we just wanted to hang out. From the minute I arrived, I was like a kid in a candy store-all hopped up on sugar and unable to concentrate. Before any of us realized it, it was time for me to get on my bike and head back east before the tape recorder ever came out.
I had ridden in from points east, and the last day of the trip was an easy 360 miles from Gunnison, Colorado, so I made it in well before dark. I met Jeff at his Springville, Utah, studio, and he took me over to the family restaurant, the Art City Trolley, for some fine dining at one of the coolest places you'll ever eat. A mint Panhead ('57, if I remember correctly) mixed in with a ton of items you'd never expect to find at a family restaurant (think a nicer and more intimate artistic motorhead version of Cracker Barrel) kept my head spinning as I headed to the men's room to wash the road grime from my face and hands.
As we ate, I found out that besides the day-to-day business and family obligations, Jeff is also very busy with two very high-profile projects. The first is a life-size-and-a-half hillclimber bronze for Harley-Davidson, and the second is a pair of life-size Elvis bronzes, one for Graceland H-D in Memphis and one for Rossmeyer's H-D in Daytona.
The hillclimber project is an extension of sorts of a previous piece. Many of you have seen the great bronze of the 1930 DAH factory hillclimber. Now imagine that piece at 15 to 18 feet high. Jeff's pushed so much clay just for the base (hill) of this project that he has to wear braces on both arms to (hopefully) help ward off increasing carpal tunnel issues. The size of the project is such that he has to do it at his home. Along with his hot rod (the Cole Foster Special K), the mint 1930 DAH Harley factory hillclimber (used for scale reference), the foam mock-ups and clay hill, his garage is filling fast.