One of the most delightful aspects of foreign travel is the discovery of massive talent in remote locales. Such a place is the Museo Dimitrios Demu in Lechería, Anzoátegui, Venezuela. Here is a museum of such diversity that it almost takes your breath away. The locale is the home, now turned into a museum, of Dimitrios Demu, one of the leading sculptors of Venezuela, who was born in Macedonia, Greece in 1920 and died in Venezuela in 1997. The museum, comprised of some 3200 square meters of art, brings together in a permanent display most of the sculptor’s smaller works starting from the time he arrived in Venezuela in 1965.
Demu, locally called Taki, was an international sculptor who was a great lover of the sea and crafted enormous stainless steel structures showing his awe of water, light and movement. Of particular interest to me is his large sculpture of a Mermaid, which is housed in its own circular room, within the museum. The Mermaid was sculpted in 1985 and weighs approximately 80 kilos of stainless steel. As you walk into the darkened room this large sculpture picks up light from well-placed recessed lighting which highlights its handcrafting and movement in space. Steel sculptured fish surround her in protection.
The Mermaid is hollow with the exception of the breasts which each weight 10 kilos of stainless steel. It was crafted using ribbons and threads of stainless steel applied much in the same way as paper mache except that it was welded. In this way, Demu suppressed the notion of weight and the lovely sea maiden looks as though she is actually moving through the water. All of his sculptures dance, they move, and touching them is encouraged. Children were stroking the mermaid as I walked through the exhibition. They seemed to identify with the sea around them even though they understand that a mermaid is fantasy.
Demu had an interesting life. In 1929, at the age of eight, he left Greece with his parents to settle in Cavarna, Romania. In 1939 he attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Bucharest, from which he graduated in 1944. He was invited to have his first individual exposition in 1946 in Bucharest where critics stated, “He tries to give his sculpture an internal energy, a movement intended to express strength and longing.” In 1949 Demu won 1st prize for his bust of the Russian poet, Alexander Pushkin, which is housed in the Pushkin Museum in Leningrad today.
Although not a communist, Demu became famous as the young sculptor who received 1st prize for his Monument of Stalin, which was erected in Bucharest in 1951 and was destroyed in 1958 when the “DeStalinization Movement” began. A copy of the bust is housed in Demu’s museum today.
In 1965 Demu moved to Lecheria, Venezuela, where his brother Nicolas lived. This move to South America exposed him to the colors and warmth of the sea; he is quoted as saying, “The sea of Lecheria ends nowhere; this air that never stops is endless.” Much of his art from this period is entitled ‘Art in Motion’. “Movement, as in the sea, is the basis of life – without it there is no life. This is why my sculpture incorporates both movement as well as equilibrium. I have freed steel, iron and bronze, along with my anxiety, fears and dreams, into a torrent of water which flows. My sculptures are made up of volumes of space. There is not art without poetry and for me poetry is the happiness of love and space.”
His enormous sculptures are placed throughout both public and private spaces within Venezuela—airports, parks and commercial properties—but my favorite will always be his Mermaid. To me, she is the essence of gracefulness in water.
Nancy Terrell is a freelance writer who has lived in the Caribbean for 22 years. She holds a Master’s Degree in Literature and is currently cruising on her trawler, Swan Song, throughout the Caribbean.