David Hostetler | 1926 - 2015 | Obituary

David Hostetler
David Hostetler

December 27, 1926 - November 17, 2015

U.S. VeteranThere is a place in rural Athens County, Ohio where a tall, grey bearded man with a do-rag on his head walked through the woods and saw the female form in every tree, where the sounds of his mallet striking a metal chisel transformed those ancient trees into women. This world, unique unto itself, is the world created by David L. Hostetler.


Hostetler was an eminent and much beloved sculptor, painter, printmaker and teacher whose works are featured in prominent galleries and private collections worldwide. He died after a short illness on 17 November 2015 in Athens. He was 88 and lived in Athens, Ohio and Nantucket, Massachusetts.


A wood carver and bronze sculptor of works capturing the female form, David was also a professor at Ohio University. His art career, spanning almost seventy years, progressed from folk images to stylized forms. His work appeared in over 25 museums and galleries, including the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Milwaukee Museum and the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio.


Born in Beach City, Ohio, on December 27, 1926, Hostetler had a close relationship with his Amish grandfather, an influence that stayed with him throughout his career. Hostetler entered the artistic world by accident. During World War II, he was injured while in the Army. His epiphany occurred during recuperation, when he received drawing materials from a Red Cross volunteer. Hostetler graduated with a BA in art from Indiana University in1948 and a Master's of Fine Arts from Ohio University in 1949. He taught at Ohio University for 38 years.


Hostetler earned wide acclaim for his unique treatment of the feminine form, his "women." Most of his pieces begin as woodcarvings, with bronze versions cast directly from the wood. In the '60s, he gained national prominence for a series of carvings using indigenous hardwoods (elm, white oak, walnut, maple). He then progressed from folk images to stylized symbols in exotic woods (purpleheart, ziricote and Pink Ivory). The prominent photographer, Yousuf Karsh, created a unique portrait of Hostetler surrounded by his "women." Hostetler’s artwork also has been featured in films, on television, in newspapers and magazines.


Among his notable pieces are “The Duo” a 13-foot sculpture installed at Trump International Hotel and Tower in Manhattan, commissioned by Lizanne Galbreath in 2006. This rough textured bronze depicts two slender figures seemingly growing out of trees and touching at the arms. Later, in 2012 a second piece, titled “Ikon” was unveiled in a pocket park at The Sheffield Building, in New York City.


Hostetler retired as a full professor of sculpture from Ohio University in 1985 where he was named Professor Emeritus. Over the course of his career, he also lectured throughout the United States and Mexico. David was a teacher, mentor and inspiration for countless students at Ohio University, including Jim Dine, whose work has been collected and exhibited internationally since 1960; David True, an artist who has exhibited at the Whitney Biennial and who now teaches at Columbia University; Harvey Breverman, a well-known painter and printmaker; Glenn Randall, a leader in the field of English antiques; and Dianne Perry Vanderlip, a curator of contemporary art at the Denver Art Museum.


A long time fixture on the Athens music scene, Hostetler played drums with multiple jazz ensembles for decades around the state. In 1999 David created his own intimate jazz venue, “Club Dave” at his studio on Coolville Ridge. Starting as a small setting for enjoying jazz classics among close friends, it grew to become a cultural hotspot on the Athens social scene.


David is survived by his wife and muse, Susan Crehan-Hostetler, his son, Jay Hostetler and his partner, Cherri Hendricks, and two daughters, Anne Lampela, and Jane Palmer. He is also survived by many grandchildren and great grandchildren.


Every community has individuals by which it is defined. David was such an individual.


Calling hours will be on 23 November at 4 – 7 pm followed by a service from 7 – 8 pm at the Athens Community Center, 701 E State Street, Athens, Ohio in Rooms A, B, and C. Burial will be held at 10 am on 24 November at Clarks Chapel, Athens. A celebration of his life will take place during the Spring in Athens, Ohio and in August in Nantucket, MA. Arrangements are with Jagers & Sons Funeral Home, Athens. Online condolence at www.jagersfuneralhome.com.


In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the David Hostetler Legacy Fund at Foundation for Appalachian Ohio, 35 Public Square, Nelsonville, Ohio 45764 www.appalachianohio.org.

Photo Credit- Lyntha Eiler