WILLISTON, N.D. - This fall, Williston State College will be home to a new steel sculpture by local artist Dave Njos.
The sculpture, named "Clark's Table," will be housed in a gazebo designed and constructed by Tim Delorme, the welding instructor at WSC, and Clay Sponable, Director of Campus Services.
Njos, who has also created the life-sized iron coyotes outside of Williston High School and the wheat monument in Davidson Park, which stands 30 feet tall, described this new piece as a project he's been passionate about for a while.
"When I first told the college about it, I said 'I'll do it, and, if it's not what you want, I'll keep it,'" Njos recounted.
He recalled requests for him to do a drawing as well, so that the college could see his plans for the sculpture, but Njos scoffed at the idea.
"I don't like to draw my sculptures when I'm planning them out," he said. "Then I'm stuck with that plan and I can't change anything."
Njos poured months of his time into the project, estimating that he spent "three or four" winters working on it in his shop in his free time.
The attention to detail in the sculpture stands as a testament to the staggering amount of research and effort that Njos put into "Clark's Table."
"Dave's artistry will bring part of [Lewis and Clark's] journey to life at Williston State College," WSC President Dr. John Miller expressed.
Njos remember working for hours on hours on a "single crack" in a box to make it look real.
"With that particular box," he stated, "I wanted to make it look like real wood, with the right grain and everything, and then I wanted to make it look like something from that time period really would have looked."
Njos, who has years of carpentry experience, spent time researching the correct materials and techniques that a real carpenter from the time period would have used.
"By the time I was finished," he noted, "it looked like it had really been made by some backwoods carpenter in St. Louis with crummy tools and basic training."
The same level of care extended to everything else in the sculpture, from the bottles in Clark's trunk, which are sculpted as they would have appeared 200 years ago, to the badge on the front of Clark's hat, which Njos made sure to sculpt so it appears to be leather, not silk, as Clark was not a rich man.
"I had a huge stack of books in the shop at all times," Njos said, stretching out his arms for emphasis.
Of course, there were some parts of the sculpture that Njos couldn't make completely accurate, but he found a way to improvise.
"Lewis and Clark would have had lap desks," he pointed out, "because this was a military expedition. But I couldn't make those a part of the piece. There's not a good way to display them."
What did he do instead?
"I pretended they came to me and asked me to make them a lightweight and portable table," Njos recalled. "I designed it as if I had the tools and materials of the time period to work with."
Obstacles did occasionally arise, however.
Njos, who has rheumatoid arthritis, had to spend weeks with a grinder to ensure the metal had the appearance of wood.
"There were short days," he admitted.
Despite the pain, Njos persevered and designed yet another sculpture for the Williston area that will surely stand the test of time.
Look for the art this fall on the north end of campus by the science wing.
For more information on WSC, please visit www.willistonstate.edu
call 1.888.863.9455, or stop by 1410 University Avenue, Williston, ND.