A VISIT WITH GIUSEPPE PALUMBO AT HIS STUDIO IN SAUSALITO, CA
Text by Bonnie Gangelhoff · Photos by Paul O’Valle
This story was featured in the July 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art July 2015 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!
Describe your studio. My boat is a 51-foot schooner that I have converted into a studio. I removed the pilot house and built another structure on the deck, creating a good-size studio with large windows and doors scrounged from architectural salvage yards. It has creature comforts, too. It may be one of the few sailboats with a chandelier and a soaking tub.
What elements were important to you in designing your floating studio? Even though it evolved and is barely recognizable from when I bought it 10 years ago, it was essential to keep its soul. I just breathed another chapter into her. I’ve been incorporating and reusing old materials in projects for a long time. It’s awesome to see these great design elements live on and be constantly surrounded by them.
You consider your boat a piece of sculpture. Why? Boats have such elegant, graceful lines, and yet they are functional. I built a kayak when I was 14, and boats have been an integral part of my life since then. I’ve experienced the world in kayaks, rafts, and other vessels. I’m a sucker for well-designed boats, and it takes a bit of effort not to add to the fleet. Recently, I found a handsome tugboat that was retiring, and before I knew it, I was giving it a home as an art piece at my Colorado studio.
How does your surrounding environment influence your work? The environment is incredible. It’s generally quiet, very meditative. Sculpting in the first rays of light with a cup of coffee is my church. The evening light with wine isn’t so bad either. The surroundings definitely influence my works, and many have taken on a nautical aspect. During a herring run, the bay becomes a huge buffet for pelicans, cormorants, sea lions, and all the other wildlife that follow the food. Sometimes there are so many birds you can actually hear their collective wing beats as they fly by. The boat does move a bit, but it’s very natural, and I enjoy it.
How does the weather impact your work day? When it’s cold in the morning, the oil-based clay is hard, and I work on fine details. As it softens up with the heat and I warm up, I gravitate toward larger elements. My favorite time is winter, when it’s rainy and foggy; it feels like another dimension.
Why is it important to you to live in the space where you work? If I want others to relate to my work, I need to first develop a relationship with it. And this requires time. I see the piece in different lighting, and the lines need to be correct even in the dark. When I’m not working on it, I will see something and go over and make a change.
You also have a studio in Eldorado Springs, CO. How are the studios different? What they have in common is that they are each surrounded by immense natural beauty. Colorado and the mountains have a rougher, masculine aspect while the California studio on the water is calming and feminine—but only a fool underestimates her power.
If your floating studio were on fire, what one thing would you save? I would gather up as many of the artworks I’ve collected as possible.
What artists have influenced you? I am influenced by so many. In my studio I have lithographs by Dali and Rembrandt and works by many artist friends whose work I respect. I believe in always surrounding myself with the best and then understanding why a piece moves me in a certain way. Bernini’s BLESSED LUDOVICA ALBERTONI is so technically well-executed and yet effectively evokes such a powerful emotion. More recently I love Nathan Oliveira’s work. It’s loose and minimal but very strong.
Do you listen to music while you work? Silence is important, so often I don’t listen to music. Although there are times when mixing sculpting and music is like a slice of heaven.
What is your proudest accomplishment as an artist? I have the ability to look at almost anything and see a potential art piece. Sometimes it becomes an issue as I’m hauling a rock or piece of wood out of the backcountry. I was at a show once, and a woman cried while looking at a sculpture. Creating experiences like that doesn’t happen often, but it is the intention.
What do you enjoy doing when you are not working? I enjoy my outdoor surroundings. I still kayak regularly and mix in some mountain biking.
What is one place that people will never find you? A golf course.
Aerena Galleries & Gardens, St. Helena, Yountville, and Healdsburg, CA; Coda Gallery, Palm Desert, CA; Cole Gallery, Edmonds, WA; Hanson Gallery Fine Art, Sausalito, CA; Horton Fine Art, Beaver Creek, CO; SmithKlein Gallery, Boulder, CO; Sugarman Peterson Gallery, Santa Fe, NM.
Featured in the July 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
Southwest Art July 2015 print issue or digital download Or subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss a story!
MORE RESOURCES FOR ART COLLECTORS & ENTHUSIASTS
• Subscribe to Southwest Art magazine
• Learn how to paint & how to draw with downloads, books, videos & more from North Light Shop
• Sign up for your Southwest Art email newsletter & download a FREE ebook