Father Nature

Sculptor experiments with selenite


You probably know Leo Atkinson as "The Geode Man" from Art in the Park.

This summer's Art in the Park probably will be the next time you see Atkinson emerge in the Steamboat art circuit. He is busy these days piecing together his acquisitions from the February gem and mineral show he attended in Tucson, Ariz.

"It's like Christmas," said Atkinson, a local fossil and mineral sculptor, as he unwrapped his latest geode purchases. "Everything is real, but not as it seems."

For the first time, Atkinson is working with selenite, a variety of gypsum that occurs in transparent crystals or crystalline masses.

Atkinson's sculptures are composites of different fossils and minerals that are mounted on a piece of granite. They sell for $5,000 to $25,000.

His pieces rotate 360 degrees for two reasons -- "for aesthetics, and if you have perfect balance, then it's not going to fall apart on you," Atkinson said.

He begins with a basic geode and drills holes into it so he can attach African crystals, quartz flowers and selenite. Some of his sculptures also are lamps.

"Half of my fun is procuring (sculpture materials), getting (them) back here and seeing what fits together," Atkinson said.

The art world is a tough market in which to succeed, and Atkinson attributes his success to being a good businessman. "I am blessed to have first been a salesperson," Atkinson said.

Early in his career, he sold Kirby vacuum cleaners. It was then that he learned how to close a deal. "I was a little country hick boy," Atkinson said about when he first started working with minerals. He began his work with minerals by fishing agatized coral from the Withlacoochee River in Northern Florida.

His work during the past 22 years primarily involved amethyst and fossils. When the fossil market became flooded, he began to focus on minerals.

His new medium, selenite, was discovered by miners who split open geodes while looking for amethyst. "They used to throw this stuff away," Atkinson said.

Atkinson plans on selling his work at 31 art shows and Renaissance festivals this year.

"It's about always showing new stuff. Do not become stagnant," Atkinson said.


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