Jeff Decker is as famous for being a strong character as much as for his art, which is a shame, as he’s a truly gifted sculptor. Watching Decker shape clay is a quick dictionary lesson in ‘talent’; little blobs of nothing magically cohere under his fingers, and suddenly a shirt is rippling in the wind, cheeks pressed against a skull, a Cyclone cam drive -right down to the nuts- is released from its prison of moistened dirt. From humble clay and wax, later cast in bronze, come a the heady tang of exhaust, sweaty determination, the roar of engines and crowds, an evocation of lost eras of men wrapped over primitive machines, racing for their lives, sometimes losing them. As Frederick Remington did for the cowboys, so Jeff Decker does for motorcyclists.
His prodigious gift for sculpting men and motorcycles earned him an exclusive deal with Harley-Davidson to ‘represent’ HD in bronze, and a monumental flailing hillclimber greets visitors to the HD Museum in Milwaukee. His sculptures of Rollie Free’s 150mph Vincent stretchout and battling board track racers romanticize a lost era of dangerous masculine competition, a man-credo Jeff embodies with his gruff, opinionated persona and patch-wearing membership in the Sinners cycle club.
Decker’s moto-streak runs deep, and his passionate knowledge of the subject extends to a profound collection of biker club colors, paintings, and actual motorcycles, which he’s been collecting since they were cheap. He grew up surrounded by mechanical torch-bearers like his father, a collector of flathead hotrods and parts, a man with a good eye in the early SoCal hotrod scene, and whose buddies nowadays bring awe to young wannabes. Decker is the real deal, and isn’t afraid of anyone’s opinion, customizing revered brands like Crocker and Vincent to express his own lines. As expected for a talented artist, the results are harmonious while respecting the past, and lend the old warhorses a renewed super-cool.
This article originally appeared in MCN's 'Retro' supplement to their Sept.2011 issue.
copyright 2011 Paul d'Orléans/The Vintagent