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Artist with a chainsaw


Imagine driving down the road and seeing a tall slender man on the side of the road weilding a chainsaw.
When you stop to investigate you find he is carving something out of a dead log he has found along side the road. AFter watching for ten or fifteen minutes the log turns into an indian, or an eagle or a cactus.
This is how I and many others have metn John Bookwalter, a.k.a. Johnny the Woodman. After meeting Bookwalter I vowed to go to his studio in West Milton because I was interested in learning more about this self-styled artist.
I could never have imagined exactly what I did learn. The Woodman has been involved in his artistic endeavor for about twenty years.
He claims that he took a vow of poverty in 1977 after a successful career in insurance. He started his first gallery, "The Enchanted Forest" in a poor section of Dayton near where he grew up.
While in Dayton he had great visions for community revitalization. However, Bookwalter did not have much success in getting Dayton leaders to follow his vision. He moved his gallery to West Milton whre he also has his residence for his wife and three children.
There is a sign on a fence behind Bookwalter's gallery that reads "The woodman creed. Let us be gentle with everything on the earth. Let uscount as friends the land and sky, the waters, and all the creatures that live."
The title of artist suits Johnny well according to him because it gives the freedom to extol his philosophies.
Anyone who has met Johnny knows that he is always willing to discuss such things as what our human existance on this earth means. Bookwalter says that everyday he "exersizes his mind".
While hanging out with Johnny I was able to witness this. If someone stops to watch Johnny work, he will occasionally stop to expound on something.
Bookwalter also believes that "there is no more important aspect of man than the unlimited creative self". He says that his goal is to infect all that he comes into contact with the importance of free creative thinking with action.
Bookwalter also believes that, "the key to saving our democracy, our individualism, is in the free will of expression through all forms of art".
Bookwalter can be concidered successful. Despite having shunned the corporate world he is able to provide his family with everything they need. He does this through shunning debt and the throw away attitudes of commercial society.
He also has done quite well at selling his work. His carvings can be found all over Miami County including in the possession of some prominent people and businesses.
Source: Piqua Daily Call, November 7, 1996
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