Nathaniel Eldridge (Dan) West, 79, passed peacefully on Sunday, October 3, having lived to the rhythm of the natural world.
Dan had several careers prior to devoting full time to his artwork. After graduating from Allegheny College and then active duty in the Navy, he taught English at South Kent School in Connecticut. Moving to the Vineyard in 1974, he served as business manager at the Vineyard Gazette, after which he owned and operated Machine & Marine, Inc. for 14 years. He sold the business in 1988 but continued building the well-known Tashmoo skiffs for a time. After taking a couple of years to restore a 1740s farmhouse, he returned to boat building, designing and producing Greenland-style kayaks.
Beginning in the late eighties, he and his wife, Kyra, spent 12 summers in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, where he was profoundly influenced by wild coastal habitats, fish and saltwater birds. While in Canada, he also became inspired by minimalist Inuit sculpture.
Since 2000, he made his home in Friendship, Maine. In his barn studio, he sculpted wildlife from driftwood, metal and beach stone that he collected on the islands of Muscongus Bay, Maine, and on the barrier beach at Advocate, Nova Scotia.
Of his art, he observed: “The best form to my eyes is found in the natural world. As much as possible, I work with driftwood and other found materials to keep close to nature.” His hope for a finished piece was that the origin of the material would be recognizable and that the work would retain its wildness. He believed his best chance to create a significant sculpture was by releasing a creature from nature.
He treasured his relationships with the four galleries that represented him: the Granary Gallery on Martha’s Vineyard, and the Caldbeck Gallery, Littlefield Gallery, and June LaCombe Sculpture in Maine.
Dan’s sense of humor, creativity and enthusiasm will be missed by all who knew and loved him.