There’s something otherworldly about Colton Dion’s artwork. Elegantly carved wooden shapes, carefully painted with trees, grass, and sunset skies, present a view of natural serenity. A viewer can become transfixed by the color and form, riddling out the idiosyncratic perspective as if peeping through a hole in the space-time continuum.
Dion calls his works sculptural landscapes. He credits their origins to growing up in rural Candler, west of Asheville, on an east-facing mountain. “Without knowing it, I would study the landscape as the colors shifted throughout the day and the seasons,” he says.
Dion was always intrigued by art but, after high school, he worked a series of flooring jobs with a father. “One day, Dad handed me a six-inch scrap piece of wood flooring and said something like, ‘Here, paint on this,’” he says. “And that was that.”
As time passed, Dion’s treatment of the wood became more complex. What started in 2014 as a simple rectangle with rounded edges gradually took on new dimensions. “I realized I could sort of pull off a trompe l’oeil effect by cutting the wood into the second shape of a ribbon,” he says. “The illusion was created with paint and, since then, the shapes have become a whole lot more fun to imagine, even as I stay grounded with traditional landscape subjects.”
Dion estimates that his sculptural landscapes number around 140, with different shapes inspiring their own series. Of his current project, “Isolation,” he says, “It takes you into the individual components that make up an Appalachian mountain view. For example, a grass field in the shape of a triangle — with the tip of the triangle being the horizon point — allows you to take in the scene without much distraction.”
Asheville and its environs have played a critical part in Dion’s development as an artist. When he was a kid, skateboarding with his brothers, the city was a kind of playground. He was particularly drawn to the River Arts District. After a number of shows downtown, he found himself back in the RAD at Level 42 Gallery & Studio, part of the Foundy Street district that rose around Foundation Spot, a collectively built communal skatepark maintained by volunteers. “I felt an immediate friendship with Level 42, and they graciously showed my work, including a couple of solo events,” he says. (He’s now represented by nearby Foundation Woodworks.)
When it comes to future projects, Dion imagines pieces that will incorporate more than woodwork and painting. “These may involve trades I’m not yet skilled in,” he says. “But I’m following the breadcrumbs and we’ll see where it turns out.”
Wherever that is, the view will likely be unforgettable.