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Byline: Holly Edwards Staff Writer

CANYON COUNTRY - The Egyptian carvings and statues at the Luxor Hotel, the gilded Italian art at the Bellagio and Venetian hotels, and the Indonesian artwork at Mandalay Bay are some of Canyon Country artist Tony Devroude's trademark work found in Las Vegas hotels.

His mark on Vegas continues with the pink art nouveau ceilings, columns and capitols at the Paris Hotel, and the art deco glasswork at the Flamingo Hotel.

But while the 57-year-old artist is best known for massive recreations of ancient art forms, it is the small things that interest him the most.

With his brilliant blue hyacinth macaw perched on his shoulder, Devroude flips through photos of his creations and explains that his lucrative work for Vegas hoteliers is merely a means to support his real passion - building model ships that are accurate to the most microscopic detail.

``The work in Las Vegas can't be an accurate reproduction because they couldn't afford the time it would take me to do that, and most of the people who go there wouldn't be able to tell the difference anyway,'' said Devroude. ``With ship building, I'm striving to preserve history by documenting them exactly the way they were. If it was metal on the original, it's metal on mine.''

The irreverent Devroude said the ostentatious vulgarity of Las Vegas architecture is created by the very people who sign his paycheck - the hotel owners.

``I'm working for clients who only care about smoking a big stogie, flying around in their private jet and having broads by their side,'' he said, adding that his Las Vegas clients often request odd mixtures of styles.

``One guy wanted an 18th century German backwoods men's club a la New York Jewish deli,'' he said.

While Devroude views his hotel work as artistically inferior, hotel owners around the world have been clamoring for his work for three decades.

His work can be found at Hilton hotels in Istanbul, Tel Aviv, Athens, Tehran, Rome and Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia.

Closer to home, the Beverly Hills Hotel Polo Lounge features some of Devroude's art deco glasswork, and Universal Citywalk features miniature airplanes crafted by Devroude.

``I have a knack for picking up any kind of period design or style,'' he said. ``Unfortunately, art in architecture doesn't really exist any more. If it does, it's in this kind of haphazard approach. It used to be that the arts evolved around architecture, and architects were the masters that designed it all.''

Devroude's somewhat disorganized home is filled with silicone molds and design sketches used to create his massive hotel and casino work. A model of the MGM lion stands on a shelf in his garage, surrounded by a mishmash of pieces of various projects.

Small mirrors are strategically placed in every corner of the house to entertain Tobie, a 19-year-old parrot that demands Devroude's constant attention.

When not perched on his shoulder, Tobie turns to more destructive pursuits, such as devouring a bowl of fruit or chewing on one of Devroude's priceless antiques.

``She's the love of my life and my little blue wife,'' Devroude said with a chuckle. ``She even likes to curl up and sleep with me sometimes.''

Tobie is Devroude's closest companion during the long, 12-hour days in his workshop. Sometimes, he said he pours a cup of coffee as soon as he gets out of bed, sits down at his work bench, and doesn't remember to take a sip until noon.

``The time just goes by like that,'' he said, snapping his fingers.

The all-consuming nature of creating a work of art served a very practical purpose for Devroude when he was growing up - it allowed him to remain sane in a household dominated by his alcoholic father.

``He'd come home half-cocked after hitting the bars, and I'd go down to the basement and do my models and make things,'' he recalled. ``You really have to discipline your hand and your mind to do this, and it took my mind off of other things.''

The painstaking pursuit of recreating models of historic ships still dominates Devroude's life. He pores over documents describing the original specifications of each ship, and spends thousands of hours recreating an exact replica of it.

While some of the details are too small to see without a microscope, to Devroude they are all-important.

``It's history,'' he said. ``What I really want to do is start an institute of lost arts here in Santa Clarita so these art forms are never forgotten. There are a lot of beautiful things we don't have today, and we might not have ever again.''


4 photos


(1 -- 2) Canyon Country artist Tony Devroude displays samples of period looks he has created for clients. At left is Devroude's interior roof of the Tropicana Hotel.

(3) Tony Devroude's real passion is for the painstaking accuracy of model ships.

(4) Tony Devroude uses plaster casts to recreate architectural details from the past for his projects around the world.

David R. Crane/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 20, 2000

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