Modern Phoenix Neighborhood Network

 

Strange Angel

Steel Sculpture by Al Glann

Al Glann is a sculptor in Scottsdale Arizona that specializes in life-sized additive steel sculptures. Collected by individuals and institutions alike, Glann's work has a spirited, earthy appeal that lends itself well to display both indoors and out.

There is a streamlined yet decorative look to your pieces that hearkens back to American Art Deco -- forms similar to the Chrysler Building and stylish metal hood ornaments. Is it just me or is there a dialogue there?

I've always felt a connection to American Art Deco, I think my first exposure to it as a kid was looking at hood ornaments on old Pontiacs and Caddys. Actually I have a couple of those around the house, I just love the fluid forms.

You often work life size in relationship to the human body. Why does this proportion appeal to you?

I've worked in a variety of sizes but I feel most comfortable in working life-size or larger. There is probably a connection between growing up on a farm and working on a larger scale. People often ask why I don't do some smaller pieces; well, they're just as much work as the larger pieces and the larger sculpture have a lot more presence and personality to me.
The Messenger

Your artworks are often said to be inspired by individuals in your life. Do you consider yourself to be a portrait artist?

Not really, I think part of it goes back to my training as an illustrator, to create a unique scene and to bring some of your experience into it. As artists, we all try to dig around in our sub-conscience and pull out our own personal view of the world. A lot of times I'll sketch a piece, create it out of steel and it will be six months down the road before I really understand where the inspiration for it came from. I do feel a close connection to the people that have been a part of my life and I try to bring that into my work.

You are working in a new style that is highly polished and glossy, which is a big departure from the rusty steel of old. What does this shift mean to you?

It's a shift, yes, and no. I used to do very high gloss painted pieces made of wood and aluminum rod. They would always get so scratched or banged up when I showed them that I decided to work in a medium that it it fell over it would break whatever it hit and still be fine. The new direction that includes the polished steel I'm still developing exactly where that is going to go. In the New York series, there is the contrast of the polished steel and raw steel with a lot of texture. I'm going in at the end and coating these pieces with an automotive clear coat to keep the contrast of surfaces. There is a little rust there but now it's been coated to stop the oxidation process.
Beyond the Oasis
Ancient Bloom

Your sculptures are built to endure the elements -- in fact your storage yard is quite literally a yard. Do you have any particular advice for the siting of one of your pieces in a formal landscape or natural setting?

It becomes a design process, how is a particular piece going to fit in a particular environment so that the sculpture and the area around it compliment each other. I just delivered a stone base for a piece I sold in California in October so that it would match the the flagstone area around it as well anchor the piece better.

 

You've lived and worked here for quite some time, long enough to see the continued rise of your favored medium, rusted steel, become part of Arizona's contemporary vernacular in architecture, landscape and sculptural art. What do you think accounts for the continued rise in interest?

I started doing the rusted pieces back in Ohio because I liked the process. Paint is OK but to me it loses some of the essence of the material. There are a number of reasons that I think rusted steel works well in this environment; there is a sense of history, like seeing an old rusted car or farm machinery out in the desert, the color itself is very reminiscent of the red rock of the southwest and is a great compliment to all the green we have here in the valley. Also, normally we think of metal as being cold, and hard. With rusted steel it takes on a different persona, it's warmer, more natural and has some texture to it and people can identify with it.
A Spiritual Gesture
Rough Earth

Do you work from salvage or from raw materials?

Actually both, but I've always liked to pick up unique salvaged pieces and try to put them into some of my work. I think it adds another level of interest.

 

You are a seasoned art and design instructor at the Art Institute of Phoenix. What lessons have you learned from the next generation of artists and designers?

The people I work with are great and they have a wide spectrum of experiences and concepts that I can tap into and share. As far as the students go, there is a rawness there that is exciting for both the student and the instructor. They can, on occasion, come up with very unique solutions and on a creative level we both inspire each other. As far as what lessons I've learned, I guess it would be we all have a lot to contribute to this world and it's fun to push each other along. Creativity knows no age.
All images and sculptures are copyright Al Glann