A piece of art from the DeVine Wood exhibit

A piece of art from the DeVine Wood exhibit

As a student-athlete at Rider 35 years ago, Bill Devine ’75 used the wrestling mat as his means of self-expression. These days, having long ago hung up his singlet, Devine grapples instead with a lathe, turning ordinary wood into vibrant, colorful art.

Devine and creative partner Ramon DeAnda comprise the wood artisan team known as DeVine Wood Designs, whose mission is to release nature’s hidden beauty, allure and color from both domestic and exotic woods into artful objects. Devine and DeAnda’s DeVine Wood exhibit, sponsored by Rider’s Alumni of Color affinity group, will open on Friday, March 5, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the Abud Family Foundation for the Arts, located at 3100 Princeton Pike, Building 4, on the third floor, in Lawrenceville. The opening will feature a 7 p.m. overview from Devine and De Anda, and the exhibit will run through March 19. 

While DeAnda is a longtime veteran of the art scene, Devine calls his self a “relative neophyte” who has nonetheless become a skilled woodturner in a rather short time. “Ramon is really my mentor; he’s been doing this for more than 20 years,” said Devine, who befriended his neighbor, DeAnda, shortly after losing his wife of 30 years in 2005.

Devine, who was hobbled by sciatica and required a cane to walk, found help and encouragement through DeAnda, a student of the martial arts. Together, they rehabbed Devine, both physically and spiritually. “Once I felt stronger, we moved from the physical into the artistic,” explained Devine, who was able to discard his cane. “We channel that energy into what we do now with woodturning.”

DeAnda introduced his friend to the artistry of woodturning in the spring of 2007, and Devine was immediately surprised by his affinity for creativity. He also learned that the craft, which dates to about 1300 B.C., was often metaphorical in terms of life’s journey.

“I was making my first piece, which was supposed to be a bowl, when I punched through the bottom,” he explained. “Ramon said, ‘you’ll do better next time. That can’t be a bowl, but it’s not ruined,’ and it became a pedestal with a dome top that can hold nuts or mints. It showed me that we all start with a path we think is clear, but things change and we make the best of it.”

The DeVine Wood exhibit will feature between 30 and 40 pieces of the artists’ creations, ranging from pieces that fit neatly between fingers to those a foot and a half wide. Devine is proud of their pair’s art, and also looks forward to educating people about what he calls a lost art, particularly among people of African-American descent.

“These days, people don’t see wood much beyond the construction of buildings or in fires. Our demonstration will be to educate them about the beauty that is within wood that we don’t normally see,” he explained. “When you know how to see fire within the rings of a bowl, and the different hues of the wood, it’s difficult to overlook that beauty.

“We enjoy what it brings to us, and this exhibit is an opportunity to see what we see.”