BATTLE GROUND — About 25 years ago at the age of 49, Battle Ground resident Jim Demetro made the decision to quit his engineering career and become a full-time artist, having no idea at the time what media he would be working with — wood, glass, stone or a combination of all.
“I did some painting in my earlier years, but I really enjoyed the process of working with my hands and putting things together, which pulled me into the world of sculpting,” Demetro, 74, said. “My first commission would determine my media from the beginning of my artistic career to now.”
In 1994, Bob Olson, one of the principals of Lewis River Telephone Company, was looking for a bronze sculpture for his new office building. Demetro said the sculpture became two life-size figures and incorporated water as a dynamic feature called “Mother Bathing Child.”
“This commission helped launch my career in Clark County, which had the benefit of meeting some great people and allowed me to create some of my most interesting work,” Demetro said.
Since that first commissioned piece, Demetro has completed numerous other bronze sculpture pieces that can be seen publicly all over areas in Clark County, Mexico, Finland, Fort Clatsop National Park and Hawaii. During a meeting of the Board of Clark County Councilors on Jan. 3, Demetro was honored by being awarded the Clark County Art Commission’s 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award.
Demetro said the award was initiated by his client and close friend Elie Kassab of Prestige Development, who recommended Demetro for the award.
“I did not realize the award even existed or that it was a competition,” Demetro said. “I figured that will all the talent we have in the county, getting nominated would be a real challenge. Well, Elie persisted and got my fellow artist partner and daughter, Christina Demetro, involved contacting people and getting recommendations for the application. I have to say I was surprised and humbled by the award, and I am especially grateful to the many people who took the time to write their recommendations.”
Although his background is in engineering, Demetro said he has always had an interest in the arts. His engineering work often took him to many interesting countries around the world, and he said he was particularly drawn to the famous art museums in Paris, Rome, St. Petersburg, London, Amsterdam and numerous others.
“I was especially enamored by the three-dimensional sculptures and they intrigued me the most,” he said.
Demetro and one of his daughters, Christina, have collaborated on several art projects in the central downtown Vancouver area, including an eight-foot statue of Captain George Vancouver that is across the street from Vancouver City Hall. He said they enlisted the help of the community in the sculpting process, with more than 1,300 citizens participating and putting clay on the figure as it was created.
“It was a great memory for all and they took pride and ownership in the statue,” Demetro said.
Other sculptures in Esther Short Park in Vancouver include four large bronze salmon swimming around the 70-foot Salmon Run Clock Tower, and the statue honoring the philanthropist George Propstra, the founder of Burgerville USA, which is a sculpture of a man sitting on a bench and a young girl presenting him with a tulip to honor his Dutch heritage.
Also in that area, the historic journey of Lewis and Clark is told with four bronze life-size figures and eight wall plaques at the Lewis & Clark Plaza Building on Sixth Street and Broadway, commissioned by Elie Kassab for the 200th year anniversary of their journey. These statues are portrayed in a museum-quality setting.
Other places in Clark County where Demetro has work on display include the Heathman Hotel, York Elementary School, the Battle Ground Gardner Center, which has eight pieces, and the newest one in front of his other daughter, Alexandra Demetro’s, Naturopathic Natural Family Health Center on Main Street in Battle Ground.
“My favorite sculpting subject is the human form, although I have sculpted other figures such as salmon, sturgeon, burro, dog and other animals,” Demetro said. “The human body with its infinite poses, gestures and feelings is hard to surpass. Like many artists, whether they are musicians, dancers, poets, writers, painters, actors or sculptors, the true reward of their artistic endeavors are the smiles, wonderment and enjoyment of the public viewers.”
Demetro has been married to his wife, Eva, since 1970, and the they have 43-year-old twin daughters — Christina, his sculpting partner living in Anchorage, Alaska, and Alexandra, a naturopathic doctor practicing in Battle Ground.
For additional information on Demetro and his work, visit http://demetro.net/.