The Hill Climber
|The Hill Climber|
|Dimensions||4.9 m (16 ft)|
|Location||Harley-Davidson Museum, Milwaukee|
The Hill Climber is a 5,000 pound bronze welded sculpture that stands 16 feet tall and was created by Jeff Decker. Decker is a Utah-based artist, historian and Harley enthusiast. This sculpture is an enlarged life and 1/2 size of his original called, By the Horns; a sculpture referencing the similarities of bull riding and the sport hill climbing. This was a somewhat collaborative piece done with painter David Uhl, another artist licensed by Harley-Davidson. The rider is shown participating in a sport called hill climbing, popular in the 1920s and 30’s. The figure is free of fear in his eyes as one foot is being swept off the bike and his right arm extends backwards."He is crashing," Decker said of the helmet less young rider. "But every hill climber crashes. It's part of the race." Hill climbers were known to race up hills nicknamed the “widow maker” because of the danger and high rate of injury involved in this sport. The sculpture portrays a vintage Harley rider frozen in a skyward wheelie on a DAH bike, one of only six in the world. A documentation to the artist's friendship with Willie and Nancy Davidson can be seen on the gear drive that is inscribed with "Willie G."
This sculpture can be found on the Founders Terrace of the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The sculpture is located on the most visible part of the museum’s site. The piece was a gift from the family of Willie G. Davidson, a senior vice president and chief styling officer at Harley who is the grandson of one of the company founders, William A. Davidson. Willie and Nancy Davidson saw the original By the Horns sculpture and commissioned an enlarged duplicate to donate to the Harley-Davidson Museum.
Jeff Decker was raised in Southern California among the heart of the 60's car culture. He learned from his father, an intense collector of the area's largest flathead speed equipment. His father was also a mechanic with an eye for line and proportion. Jeff inherited his father's discriminating eye, which influences everything he creates. Working full-time at a bronze casting foundry, he began his first sculpture. He felt the need to capture man's quest for speed in all vehicles. His first sculpture was a 1924 Miller Indy car. His next sculpture was a 1922 world record holding speed boat named Baby Bootlegger followed by a 1913 flying Merkel a board track racing motorcycle. He had an airplane planned for his next sculpture but was hooked on capturing motorcycles. Decker, is an artist with a passion for cars and motorcycles along with anything mechanical that has been well made and can withstand a decade. The blend of history and artistry is what makes his sculptures unique. It has been said, "To witness his work, one is made aware of the journey, the experience gained, and upon the return, the way it felt when it originally happened." He captures the unique emotion of a place in time. He is one of few artist who completes even the foundry work of his elaborate sculptures.