SoWal People - Joe Elmore of Elmore's Landing
July 23, 2014 by Manny Chavez
Artist Joe Elmore is a big fella. Some would describe him as being “larger than life.” Although he excels in almost every art medium, his huge wood sculptures reflect his skills with the chainsaw. Witness the huge cypress Indian head and California redwood buffalo sculptures that grace the entrance to his gallery, Elmore’s Landing, located on Hwy 331 just north of South Walton High School. The huge piece of redwood used for his big buffalo sculpture washed out of a California state park.
Editor's note: We miss our friend Joe, who passed away March 11, 2017. Born in Hanford, CA, Joe was a veteran of the U.S. Navy, a great cook, fabulous artist, and owned his own gallery in Santa Rosa Beach. Joe was loved by many and his artwork adorns many homes across the country.
Once you walk past these behemoth entrance sculptures, you're treated to Joe’s incredible display of artistic renderings. Elmore’s Landing is a true monument to Joe’s varied artistic talents. Having been in the same location for over 20 years now, Joe’s pieces continue to amuse and sell to both art lovers and collectors.
“I have new customers who come in here and say ‘they just want to buy an Elmore’,” says Joe.
One of the first visual treats for visitors who enter his gallery is a wall of fanciful, colorful fish seemingly frozen in an underwater time warp. Wooden buffalo roam the grounds. A multitude of wooden Indian sculptures, all meticulously carved, dot the gallery in an endless flow of creativity. The detail etched into each face is eerily beautiful, sometimes disturbing in their life-like representation.
Cowboys, sailors, seamen, surfers, all come to life with startling accuracy. Some are tiny pieces and can be held in one hand, while others are life-size and appear ready for conversation.
Stone sculptures are equally compelling, begging for some sort of embrace. Not to be outdone in the painting realm, Joe’s acrylics on canvas evoke the true folk artist that he is. Elmore is proud and honored to have been included with the 70+ Florida artists in the 2006 book, Just Above The Water, Florida Folk Art. His works are profiled nicely within the publication.
Joe’s art has always been presented in somewhat of a grand scale. Prior to moving permanently to Freeport, he worked primarily as a chainsaw wood sculptor. Living on the river in Caryville, Florida, he knocked out huge chainsaw sculptures, loaded up his 45-foot trailer, and headed out for his studio in Boulder Creek, California where he displayed and sold his pieces. Some of his sculptures were bought to be used in the cult vampire movie, The Lost Boys, back in 1987.
Having mastered so many mediums - wood, stone, clay, metal, concrete, painting - many newbies to Joe’s gallery often ask him how many artists he represents.
“They are very surprised that all of this work is just me,” laughs Joe.
One of Joe’s newest ventures is combining his multi-media talents to produce 3D art pieces depicting local bar scenes.
“I just sold one yesterday and the customer was SO happy to find something truly different,” says Joe. “I had carved all these little people sitting, standing, talking with each other and to the bartender. Had little bottles and cans of adult beverages with little mirrors reflecting what was behind the patrons. The piece was probably 24X30 in size and six inches deep. Very realistic and fun. All the little people were painted after I carved them and sometimes seemed to me to really be talking to each other."
Now, at the age of 73, Joe doesn’t see any slowing down in the near future, or any future for that matter.
“I just don’t get tired of it, there’s always one more piece in my mind and I’ve just got to get it out.” Joe does a lot of custom work. “People come in here and ask me if I can do this or that and I just sketch it out on wood, stone, canvas, whatever, and they are always amazed that I can do this so quickly right then and there, with no reference to any drawings or anything.”
Elmore has endured two bouts with cancer in recent years and says he was never fearful of dying. “I’ve just got too much to do, there’s no time for dying,” he muses.