“I love it because it makes me happy in the best deep sense, it makes me think I am worthwhile being here and I can do something that is meaningful.”
Aristides (Aris) Burton Demetrios was born in Lincoln, Massachusetts, to a family of celebrated artists. His Grandfather, Edgar Alfred Burton was the first dean of engineering at MIT and was himself an artist. His father, George Demetrios was a sculptor who was known for his classical bronze busts, and for his drawing and sculpture school; he was a student of Bourdelle, who was a student of Rodin. His Mother, Virginia Lee Burton was the world renown children’s book author and illustrator, whose book The Little House won the Caldecott prize. Her other noted books include, but are not limited to Choo Choo, which was dedicated to Aris, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, Katy and The Big Snow, and Life Story, among others. She was also the founder of the Folly Cove Designers, whose works are currently on exhibition at the Cape Ann Museum in Gloucester, Massachusetts.
After graduating from Harvard, Aris spent three years in the Navy before training as a classical sculptor. However, Aris was keen to develop his own style of contemporary art, and in the 1960s moved to Northern California where he began to enter national sculpture competitions.
One such competition led to perhaps his best-known piece, “The White Memorial Fountain”, an iconic piece on the Stanford University campus, known by the students by the nickname they gave the sculpture - The Claw”. The bronze sculpture is a welded bronze and copper fountain dedicated to two Stanford undergraduate brothers whose lives were tragically cut short. Aris designed the fountain such that the flow of water is never the same, signifying the fact that we would never know what the lives of these two youngsters might have been. Not only did Aris win the competition to do this marquee fountain, but his designs also took second and third place in the national competition.
Other successes in national sculpture competitions quickly followed, including a fountain called "Forms Sung In A Kelp Forest" designed for David and Lucille Packard to grace the entry to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a sculpture for the Bataan War Memorial on the island of Corregidor, and the 102-foot “Wind Harp” in south San Francisco.
Aris was twice honored with the Santa Barbara Beautiful Award for his sculptures, first for "Mentors" which sits overlooking the ocean on the Santa Barbara City College Campus, and later for the stainless steel "Dance of Life" which graces the entrance to the Ridley-Tree Cancer Center. One can peruse a video of the making of this sculpture on You Tube called Aris Demetrios: The Dance of Life.
During his 60+ year career, Aris created thousands of sculptures in bronze or steel for corporate clients, public art venues, and private collectors; they are displayed across the United States and in Europe. He enjoyed several museum shows, and was represented by a number of galleries. The Heather James Gallery continues to showcase his works, which started with a show of Aris Demetrios sculptures at their Montecito Gallery.
In October 2022, an 8’ stainless steel version of Etruscan King and Consort was dedicated at the Cape Ann Museum in Gloucester, Mass. The 20’ bronze Deiniger fountain “Gathering “ on the campus of the University of Southern California, is scheduled to be rededicated in the Summer of 2023.
Aris finished his final piece, a 7’ bronze piece called – “Just for the Hell of It” two weeks before his passing, and he put the final touches on his last sculpture, entitled “Swan Song,” three days before he died; that sculpture was shipped to Washington, DC to a collector who now has 12 of Demetrios’ sculptures.
The documentary by Richard Hutton and Mark Romanov, “Aris Demetrios: The Thrill of Sculpting” can be seen on You Tube; it captures Aris’ brilliant career from the perspective of this famous sculptor late in his six decade career. Earlier movies including Breakthrough, Cosmos, and a wonderful interview about the sculpture called “Tumbler” are also available.
A new documentary by Josh Aronson will be released in 2023/4 focusing on Aris’ unique way of creating sculptures through the making of wood macquettes, and the incredible joy his works brought to all who saw them.
While Aris Demetrios passed away in December 2021, his works continue to be shown in museums and galleries and are still available through contact with his atelier director, Ilene H. Nagel at 805 4553 2853 or firstname.lastname@example.org; commissions for new pieces are also available.