By Bonnie Gangelhoff; Photos by Marc Piscotty
Describe your studio. I would describe my studio as a mess. It includes many sculpture stands for myself and the Thursday Warehouse Gang, and many drawing easels for myself and the Tuesday Droolers Group—the two groups that have met here every week for the last 35 years. The studio is small and often inadequate for so many people. There’s a lot of drawing paper, conté sticks, and chalk, as well as many unfinished sculptures, hanging electric and hand tools, homemade wooden sculpture tools from my dad, a model stand, and some electric heaters for the poor, uncovered models.
Have some people really been in our class for more than 30 years? Yes, some have been here close to that long. There’s one model who looks 30 and has been here 25 years—so that means she would have started when she was 5 years old. I try to limit talk in the groups. It’s not easy, though. Supposedly art and jokes are the only subjects allowed. We have all our jokes numbered.
Where is your studio? It’s in my house, under the ponderosa pines on the shores of Evergreen Lake near the town of Evergreen, CO, which is a small, unincorporated town in the mountains about 30 miles west of Denver. I spent a bunch of years in the volunteer fire department here. I have always felt that one owes time to the place where one lives.
Why did you choose to be a sculptor instead of working in another medium? I do many drawings from life and teach classes in “drawing from the right side of the brain.” Sculpting is also drawing. It is all seeing!
What is your material of choice? I love bronze. It is very permanent and can have so many patinas. It seems to get better the more it weathers outdoors. I would love to do more stone, and I have had a hankering for granite ever since I went to Egypt and saw all those magnificent Egyptian granites. Actually, I first fell in love with them at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, MO, where I spent my Saturdays growing up. However, I don’t want to just make “rounder stones out of round ones,” as many sculptors do. It seems there must be more to art than that.
Do you play music in your studio? I always play music—classical and opera. If the classics are driving everyone mad, I play some modern music.
What impresses you about other artists’ works? The art world has gone through many phases, from classical to impressionism to cubism to abstract expressionism to minimalism. I like to see this knowledge reflected in an artist’s work.
What is your pet peeve? My pet peeves are the so-called artists who know nothing of what went before them in art history. That is, unless they are really true “primitives,” which I love.
What influences your work? What I see before me, usually a person. I try to let some of their inner light shine through.
What artists from the past inspire you? I am most inspired by van Gogh. Even though he was completely knowledgeable in art history, his drawing and painting style was totally original. I am inspired by Henry Moore for the same reasons.
What drives you to succeed? I have so many things to finish.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? If you don’t stay young, you are in bad trouble.
Describe yourself in one word. That’s for someone else to do.
If your studio was on fire, what one thing would you save? My 1,500 drawings.
People would be surprised to learn that… I have a master’s degree in geology. As a sedimentary oil geologist, I worked up prospects to find oil, which I did mostly in Okla-homa and in the Powder River Basin in Wyoming. I learned that geology is more of an art than a science. It’s right-brained, like sculpture.
When you are not sculpting, what do you enjoy? I enjoy many things, like canoeing the Boundary Waters in Minnesota or our fifth-row seats at the Colorado Rockies baseball games.
What’s the one place people will never find you? In church.
Shidoni Foundry and Galleries, Tesuque, NM; Hayden Hays Gallery, Colorado Springs, CO; Philinda Gallery, Edwards, CO; www.tomwaresculptor.com.
Featured in September 2010