Golf course sculptures formed from the hands of a master artisan

Posted: April 6, 2011 in Interviews, Uncategorized
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Cache Creek Casino Resort in Brooks, California is situated about halfway between Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area. Widely regarded as the biggest and best casino in Northern California, Cache Creek has operated a gaming operation since 1985, when they started as a small bingo hall. Today, the 415,000 square foot facility boasts more than 2,300 slots, 150 table games, a poker room, nine unique restaurants, a 200 room four diamond hotel, day spa, gas station, and an 18-hole championship golf course.

On the spacious patio at Cache Creek Casino Resort’s Yocha-De-He Golf Club sits a massive stone column with a majestic stone eagle perched on its top, adorned with 18 varieties of birds found throughout the surrounding Capay Valley. “When I created this, I was thinking about a really good game – 18 birdies for 18 holes,” jokes sculptor Doug Hyde, the Native American artist who created a group of statues to decorate the area surrounding the course’s new club house.

Made of limestone, which absorbs rather than reflects light, the large sculpture he described tells a story which sprung from Hyde’s imagination as he worked to create the piece on a ranch just down the road from Cache Creek. “As the day passes, each of these birds will stand out when the sun moves past them,” said Hyde.

It’s this attention to detail which makes the works of art come alive.

The experiences Hyde had while creating his art outside amongst the rolling hills of the valley contributed to the finished works as well. For instance, a rabbit that came almost daily to watch Hyde work was incorporated into the sculptures. Hyde playfully nicknamed the animal “Mulligan.”

“Every morning Mulligan would stand on the hill and watch me work,” said Hyde. “I had the opportunity to see a lot of other animals from the area up close too like deer, coyotes, eagles, wild turkey, and a bobcat – but luckily not the bears,” he joked.

In addition to the eagle, Hyde cut from pink Portuguese marble the figure of a deer being pursued by a pair of Native American hunters. The deer’s tracks are placed into the concrete in the clubhouse’s courtyard leading the stalkers to their prey. A playful bear cub and his mother watch the hunters and the dear nearby.

“The bears are placed right at the entrance,” said Hyde. Like the other sculptures, this one also tells a story. “The mother is turning over a log and looking for grubs,” he said, “and the baby is collecting pine cones, playing like a little kid.” A wasp’s nest on a stick sits across the cub’s lap. “He’s about to be in for a surprise,” said Hyde, who enjoys infusing a bit of humor into his art.

Other details are also evident in his highly stylized work, such as intricate leaves and foliage surrounding the animals, all cut carefully out of the stone in soft angles. In addition to an eye for detail, Hyde’s work displays a dedication to historical accuracy in his depiction of Native American people, in this case the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation. “In this piece you’ll see that the hunter gestures with his whole hand toward the deer,” said Hyde, “because Native American people don’t point with their finger. It’s bad manners.”

Hyde, who was born in Hermiston, Oregon of Native American descent, is influenced heavily by his heritage and takes pride in reflecting it through his work. “The Native American people are now trying to tell their own story. Sculpture is a really good way to do this because you can write the stories out and people might not read it — but with sculpture they can actually see it.”

The inspiration for the grouping of sculptures Hyde created came from the history of the very valley where the Wintun people lived for thousands of years. To prepare himself, he walked the area with Tribal Chairman Marshall McKay and learned the Tribe’s history in the valley. “All of these kinds of things I thought about to get my ideas for the final pieces,” said Hyde.

Using this type of detailed historical background information, one sculpture features an authentic woven fish trap held by a woman in period dress. A child next to the woman holds a fish that was caught in the trap. Viewing the two figures evokes a feeling of traveling back in time to see the origins of the Tribe and their heritage in the region.

After months of hard work, each completed piece has been lovingly placed amongst the landscape surrounding Yocha Dehe’s clubhouse. When speaking to the artist, it’s easy to see that he’s very proud of how all of the finished pieces came together. His labors and his vision have come to full fruition. “To me, it’s a culmination of 40 years of sculpture to do a grouping like this,” said Hyde.

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