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Dean Fleming, Free as a bird part 2

Remarkable Residents of Huerfano County

Dean Fleming;
Free as a bird…

Part two: The journey that led to Libre
by Mary-Ann Brandon
At the end of part one of Dean Fleming’s story, he had boarded an ocean freighter, on his way to the U.S.A. from an extended stay in Europe. We pick up shortly after he arrived back in N.Y.C.
Fleming conveyed the account of a 1967 event that changed his life forever. A peace march to protest the Vietnam War saw one million people walking down a parade path through the city. When they came to 7th Avenue, several thousand people broke away from the route and completely stopped traffic. By the time they arrived at 6th Avenue anarchists had begun to throw bricks through windows. At 6th Avenue and 42nd Street, an ambulance with its sirens blowing was stuck in the jam causing Fleming to realize the person in that ambulance would likely die. This was a pivotal moment that forced him to make a decision to leave the chaos of the city in order to live his life exactly by his own precepts.
A Sundance in Ignacio, New Mexico one year earlier in 1966 had sparked something spiritual and magical inside his soul. He told his friends he had experienced forces much stronger than that of the New York art world. He decided he needed to find a place that was total wilderness, it had to be really beautiful, and he had to be surrounded by friends.
A “Park Place Artists” show in Denver created a chance meeting with Charlie Vigil who told Fleming to go to Huerfano or Las Animas County to find his land. He took the advice and moved into a house on a bridge on the north fork of the Purgatory River. Determined to find the perfect piece of terra firma, he spent every day searching all over Huerfano County. Walsenburg real estate agent Bill Thach eventually helped Dean to find the property that has served as his residence for the past 40 plus years. Within five minutes of being on the site, Fleming planted a stake in the ground on the exact spot where his home stands to this day. 360 acres at the end of a road outside of Gardner, Colorado became a micro-society that continues to exist. With a clear intention to live as such, Fleming named their new community “Libre” meaning, “free” in Spanish.
His marriage to a young artist became complicated. The tragic drowning death of their young daughter threw Dean into an understandable tailspin. He describes losing his daughter as “the worst thing that ever happened”. A year in South America helped him to heal. He credits his spirituality for aiding in finding some peace.
By 1985, he got the notion that he should head to Nicaragua to support the Sandinistas and express his pacifism by helping them to paint murals. Through a series of mishaps, Fleming never made it to that destination. However, along the way, serendipitous and charmed experiences have clearly shaped this artist’s life and work.
At nearly 80 years old and deeply spiritual, he shows no signs of giving up; his latest work sparks his passion and excitement. His art defies category. Over the years he has painted exactly as he pleased. Delving into abstraction at times, representational at others, he remains unconcerned with the labels or commercial boxes that are so often imposed by the business of art. His work is a pure expression of what is inside must come out.
A long marriage to his current wife Sibylla is a beautiful component of his life. His grown son Luz lives in New York and is a great source of pride and joy in his life.
Despite the obvious physical changes that accompany time, he possesses a handsomely chiseled face with piercing blue eyes. He lives a life of his own choosing with few complaints or regrets. Looking out a large picture window at a stunning view of the Huerfano Valley, Fleming says, “Inside myself I feel very grateful for everything”

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