Sculptor Daniel Glanz starts with keen observation to create his bronze portraits
By Gussie Fauntleroy
Photos by Jafe Parsons
This story was featured in the July 2013 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Order the Southwest Art July 2013 print issue, or get the Southwest Art July 2013 digital download now…Or better yet, just subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss a story!
As a Kenyan sunset bathed the savannah in golden-pink light, photographers and painters on an artists’ safari were quickly framing their perfect images—gorgeous colors, compelling composition, African wildlife at home in its environment. Everything was ideal for capturing an indelible wildlife moment in photographs or sketches to take back to the studio to paint.
Then there was Daniel Glanz. Working at his own pace, unconcerned about the sunset’s ephemeral beauty, the Colorado-based bronze sculptor was busy photographing the back of an elephant’s ear. While his companions quickly reframed and shot new angles of the breathtaking scene, Glanz methodically moved on to aim his lens at the folds on the back of the elephant’s legs. As it slowly began walking, he photographed the bottom of its foot.
Glanz lacks no sensibility for the visually stunning scenes he witnessed in Kenya or on numerous other wildlife excursions he’s taken over the years. He’s intensely aware of the magnificence of both animals and landscape in locations such as the Antarctic, Galapagos Islands, Hawaii, and Central and South America. And he brings back thousands of photos from each trip. But for Glanz, the subjects of his artistic pursuits require much more than a two-dimensional view. “A sculptor tends to look at things from top to bottom and all the way around,” he says in his amiable, understated manner. “Observing from life is so important. It adds real perspective. It gives you the ability to determine whether something looks right. It needs to balance; it needs to flow; it needs to be anatomically accurate.” So really seeing the back of an elephant’s leg pays off.
Indeed, the award-winning artist’s expressive bronze animals—whether they depict exotic wildlife or a beloved pet dog—convey a powerful sense of presence and individual personality, even in tabletop size. These traits have earned Glanz a broad following of collectors, nationally and internationally, and invitations to exhibit his work in major museums and other wildlife fine-art shows. For an animal lover who once considered pursuing veterinary medicine, sculpture is the perfect excuse for spending quality time with animals of all kinds.
Glanz doesn’t need to travel far afield to see animals in the wild. From his ridge-top home in the foothills near Loveland, CO, he looks across one canyon to the east, another to the west, and sees more than a hundred miles south to Pikes Peak. The terrain is natural habitat for bear, deer, bobcat, wild turkeys, mountain lions, eagles, and multitudes of other birds. Over the years, Glanz and his wife have come to recognize individual bears, and they’ll see them moving through the area in the spring. After a massive wildfire came within a mile of the couple’s property during the summer of 2012 (following a smaller fire the summer before), Glanz noticed other bears and wildlife traveling through in search of new sources of food.
Even small creatures catch the sculptor’s attention and inspire his art. A pair of northern pygmy owls, just 6 inches tall, spent time at the Glanzes’ bird feeders last winter—and not to munch on seeds. Perched on a small limb above the feeder, the owls would patiently wait for small songbirds to approach and then swoop down for a meal. “They show no fear of people or other birds. Their whole intention in life is to feed on birds at the feeder,” Glanz observes. FEARLESS, depicting a northern pygmy owl with one wing extended while landing, is a tribute to the casual confidence displayed by these diminutive, predatory birds.
Larger predators in the mountain neighborhood have inspired works such as WINTER’S PAWS. While the sculpture depicts a Canadian lynx, it was based on a photograph the sculptor’s wife took when she came upon a bobcat one day. In Glanz’s bronze, the cat is looking over its shoulder, sitting still. Its eyes are focused, piercing, and intelligent—as if they are saying, “Okay. Don’t come any closer. Just stay where you are.”
“I try to bring out a certain unique aspect of the animal,” Glanz reflects. “Even with dogs, some are high energy, some are big and lumbering and the sweetest things in the world.” FRENCH BULLDOG was commissioned by a doctor whose canine companion accompanies him everywhere. Whenever the doctor is in conversation, the dog is by his side looking up with an inquisitive expression as if he understands every word. “I realize I might be anthropomorphizing to a certain extent,” the sculptor acknowledges, “but I think that even wild animals have more personality traits than people give them credit for.”
That statement is based on a lifetime of keenly observing countless species of animals, beginning with dogs, cats, and farm animals on Glanz’s grandparents’ rural Ohio property, where he and his family spent summers as he was growing up. Born in Michigan, Daniel was the son of a man whose heart remained on the farm, but who worked as a CPA tax attorney to support nine children. His example of a strong work ethic was a significant influence in the sculptor’s life, as were early opportunities for encountering original art. When the family lived near Philadelphia, Dan would accompany his older brothers and sisters to concerts in the city’s sprawling Fairmount Park, where he saw public sculpture for the first time. He visited Philadelphia’s art museums, and when the family moved to Delaware, he cultivated a deep love of nature through time spent in the woods.
During high school, Glanz worked for a veterinarian and spent summers as a biological field assistant in southern California and Mexico’s Baja peninsula, trapping small mammals for research. “I was always interested in working with animals,” he says. At Colorado State University he enrolled in courses with a track to veterinary medicine, but he soon discovered, as he puts it, “My heart wasn’t in the books.” It was in art. Having spent countless hours drawing since he was a boy, he switched to art for two years at CSU and then left school for a year to do illustration work as a field assistant in Panama for the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.
When he returned to school, this time at Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Glanz was aiming for an illustration degree. But something urged him to strike out on his own instead. Soon life, including marriage and children, intervened, and art was put on hold. He worked in construction and photography and created fine furniture in wood. But in the mid-1990s, he recalls, “I decided one day that I really needed to get back to where I always wanted to go.” The desire for expression through fine art, in forms that reflected his lifelong passion for the animal world, could no longer be denied.
Having studied sculpture in college, Glanz joined a foundry crew in Loveland, working part time to learn bronze casting hands-on, and he began creating his own work. He studied the approach of artists he admired, including Italian sculptor Rembrandt Bugatti, and developed what has become his own compelling, classically inspired style. Essential to this style is a loose, textural approach that accurately establishes an animal’s physical traits and solid sense of presence without bogging down in detail. A creature’s species is announced through its distinguishing form and pose, while skillfully rendered facial expressions—especially the eyes—convey the individual animal’s personality and state of mind.
Recently, Glanz has begun dabbling with the sculptural form of low relief. While he hasn’t yet cast this work in bronze, he sees it as a way of incorporating more of an animal’s environment into his work. He also has a small painting studio at his house where he enjoys creating two-dimensional images of wildlife in natural settings, just for himself. “I think it helps with the sculpture. It’s a different way of seeing things, a mind-change,” he explains.
That spirit of happy experimentation extends to Glanz’s choice of subject matter as well. “I tend toward some odd animals,” he says, smiling. CATFISH, for example, was inspired by seeing a channel catfish under a friend’s dock on a lake. The large, gregarious, prehistoric-looking creature deserves a higher status than the stereotyped image of bottom-feeder, the artist believes. The only catch: The smooth skin of the catfish didn’t fit Glanz’s aesthetic approach. “A fellow sculptor said he doesn’t know how I got away with sculpting it with so much texture,” he says, “but I did!”
In his spacious Loveland studio, with a patina master conveniently based next door and a town full of highly experienced welders, metal chasers, and wax pourers with whom he has worked for many years, Glanz explores his sculptural ideas with quick “sketches” in oil-based clay. Therein lies both the frustration and the fun, he admits. “I have all these ideas, all these little rough sketches in clay, but it takes a tremendous amount of time to complete each one. So I focus on one, and the other ones just have to wait.”
Cogswell Gallery, Vail, CO; Saks Galleries, Denver, CO; The Squash Blossom, Colorado Springs, CO; RS Hanna Gallery, Fredericksburg, TX; Terzian Galleries, Park City, UT; www.glanzsculptures.com.
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