Sculptor • Lander, WY
By Bonnie Gangelhoff
What are some of the biggest changes you have seen in the art world during your career? The quality of art being created today, particularly sculpture, has increased. This is due to high-profile shows, such as the Masters of the American West and the Prix de West. Originality, quality, and healthy competition have been the result.
Why are you attracted to animals as subject matter?I grew up in rural Oklahoma. I helped with the horses and hunted and fished with my father as a youngster. Animals are what I know and what I have a passion for, especially birds. After leaving the Kansas City Art Institute in my early 20s, I got my pilot’s license and glider rating. I remember gaining altitude with a hawk soaring above me and having that “bingo” experience. I knew that in some way, birds and art would be my life’s work.
What have you contributed to the world of sculpture? I hope the bird-anatomy and sculpture workshops I’ve taught for more than 25 years have been helpful and inspirational to those who have participated. One of the most profound realizations of my life is that there are people I have never met who live with my art, and, therefore, I share with them a personal, if not intimate, relationship.
Of what accomplishments are you most proud? I’m proud that 25 years ago I took the advice of Richard Schmid and made teaching a personal discipline. My work has benefited from it. And I’m proud that I finally learned to use a computer. Although I love books and have acquired an extensive library over the years, it has been a real eye-opener to Google “great blue heron,” for instance, and get 1,350,000 results.
If your studio was on fire, what one thing would you save? An assembled skeleton of a pigeon in a plastic case. Years ago I acquired the specimen from Maxilla & Mandible, a unique shop on the Upper West Side of New York City. I’ve not seen another example like it outside of natural history museums.
How would you like to be remembered? When I was an animation background artist in Kansas City, I remember a saying the animators used: “Draw the verb.” The great animal painter Bob Kuhn painted the verb. I would like to be remembered as a figurative animal artist, under the spell of her subject, and in search of the “verb” in her art.
Featured in May 2012.