For a new project I am proposing to create a life-size black bear using an
eclectic assortment of stainless steel objects permanently welded together to form a remarkable
and unforgettable sculpture. He stands on all fours looking ahead curiously but cautiously
welcoming visitors with his wild and winsome personality.
The Black Bear will be created from familiar stainless steel items assembled in an extraordinary
way. His textured metallic coat is made up of hundreds of forks, mixing bowls, pitchers, tea
pots, hub caps, pots and pans, water bottles, dog bowls, coffee urns and vessels of every
description welded together into one contiguous form. It’s as if some cosmic magnet has pulled
this collection of objects together to form a remarkably life-like bear at home in Smoky Mountain
The Plenum Orbs are the culmination of a series of assemblage pieces I had been working on for
several years. As I grew more ambitious, I wanted to increase the scale and see if I could
construct a perfect sphere out of a palette of dissimilarly shaped objects. The Plenum Orb was
For me, seeing the orb rekindles memories locked up in abandoned objects that together
contain a mix of surprise, irony and humor.
It is made up of common pots, pans, pet bowls, hub caps, coffee creamers and vessels of every
description welded together into one contiguous form.
Seen as a mass of shapes formed into a single sculptural entity, the orb acts as a time capsule
that explores temporality, disposability, and questions the viability of a disposable culture.
The following orb sculpture images were taken by me and various other photographers.
In the studio, Reseda, CA.
Los Angeles, CA.
Reprocessing Orb #abstract #art #sculpture #napa_valley This is another outdoor sculpture in Napa, Ca. It was created by Donald Gialanella. He chose Reprocessing Orb as the tittle of his sculpture. It was made from repurposed stainless steel household items such as pots and pans along with hubcaps. He welded them together to form a perfect sphere, which turned out to be 48 inches in diameter. It perches precariously on the corner of Third and Main streets in Napa, Ca. Photo by Bill Elder.
On exhibit at The Orange County Center for Contemporary Art, Santa Ana, CA.
Chris Urso, a photographer from the Tampa Bay Times has been shooting video at my studio over the past several months. He’s been documenting the progress of the stainless steel head and even went so far as to install a time lapse camera which clicked away for a whole month shooting the goings-on in the main part of the studio. Click, every 2 minutes, day and night.
CHRIS URSO | Times Sculptor Donald Gialanella welds in his studio. Gialanella creates large objects using repurposed metal items. In June of 2016 he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease but plans to work as long as the disease will allow him.
To me, the process of working in steel is very much like working in clay, where a little chunk of clay is added to an armature until the figure is achieved. In my case it’s a little chunk of metal. You may say clay is more forgiving, more malleable – true, but metal is also malleable and flexible to a degree. Also, clay has to go through an elaborate time consuming process and be fired twice to become hard and permanent, while metal is instantly solid and permanent once welded. And you can bash on steel with a hammer to further refine the shape, try that with a piece of fired clay. Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages, as do all mediums. The difference I believe, is in the temperament of the artist who controls the materials.
One must find a medium that matches their personality. Clay is delicate and finicky. You have to be patient and sensitive to work with wood, one false move and the damage is irreparable.Glass requires a skilled analytical approach, while working directly in steel demands a degree of spontaneity, a confidence to commit to something and keep moving. When one finds their medium, working with it seems intuitive and enjoyable.
Got a call from video producer Bill Bales. He was assigned to do a story about the arts for WEDU, the local PBS channel in Tampa, and thought of me. He pitched WEDU the idea, they liked it and gave him the go ahead. So, I met with the crew and we talked over logistics. It’s going to be a 5-7 minute piece and it will air on the arts plus program.
After two weeks of shooting the guys put together a rough cut screener at the request of WEDU. They liked it and were enthusiastic about having a “famous” artist in the piece. Ha!
The video turned out to be interesting and highlighted my work in a very entertaining fashion. I was very pleased with it. My website blew up after it aired, getting 4000 hits in 10 minutes.
Sculpture artist Donald Gialanella turns his stainless steel sculpture “Plenum Orb” to attach it to its base. The piece is constructed from stainless steel objects like hubcaps, coffee creamers, pots, pans and utensils welded into an orb.(Bob Mack/Florida Times-Union)
Shortly after moving to Florida, my right hand began to quiver. What started out as a light tremor, soon progressed into an uncontrollable shaking. It was extremely disconcerting.
After seeing three different neurologists and a full battery of tests and scans, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Just as I was reaching the point in my career where my work was gaining momentum, I was dealt this life changing prognosis.
Recognizing the effects of the disease was a scary and painful experience. I was in denial struggling to grasp the gravity of it. I was devastated. Things would never be the same.
After several months of feeling sorry for myself and spending most of my time in bed, I hit bottom. I had been retreating from life and everything I cared about. Feeling worse and worse, I was getting more depressed with each passing day I realized that I had to accept the reality of my condition and keep working. I finally decided that, a Parkinson’s diagnosis is not the end of the road but rather a signal that I must make lifestyle changes and dedicate myself to keep moving and exercising in hopes of slowing the disease’s progression.
Taking inspiration from artists who continued to work despite their physical limitations, most notably Mark Di Suvero and Chuck Close, I got back into the studio. I found I could still work and weld, despite the tremor in my right hand. Although it is now much harder to do simple tasks, with extra effort and maintaining a positive attitude, I can still work in the studio. When people see me struggle to create sculpture in spite of my physical difficulties, I hope it can be an inspiration to overcome obstacles in their lives.
Last month I put in a proposal to create a large corTEN steel mustache sculpture to replace the one that is made of foam at the Dali Museum in St. Pete, FL. My idea was a large steel parallax mustache made up of 4-5 profiles.
I had just about given up hope of getting a response to my proposal and photoshop concept image when I got a call from Brian Iacofano at the museum saying that the director, Hank Hine, was very interested in my idea and to give them a firm cost for the piece.
I got into gear and created a DXF cad drawing of the piece with 5 profiles and emailed it off to 4 different waterjet/steel suppliers in the area for a material and cutting quote.
After I sent the Dali the quote for constructing a 12’ wide mustache they asked for quotes on a 17, 20 and 25 foot wide stash.
They chose the 17’ wide mustache and I set myself to the task of building a small steel maquette. They told me they were not asking any other artist’s for models and all that remained was the final approval and the signing of a contract. Acceptance of the maquette would seal the deal.
I asked for a modest stipend to create the maquette, which they agreed to. I made some size and scale calculations, drew out paper stencils for the 4 profiles, cut them out of 16g steel with the plasma cutter, finished the edges and welded the pieces together over two mornings work. It looks excellent, straight and balanced while being mounted on a dark stained walnut base. All that remains is a corTEN oxidized looking finish complete with texture lines that will simulate hair-like grooves in the full scale piece. Brian came to the studio and picked up the maquette on Friday and was wowed by the fish and ibis, etc. Monday morning I got the call…the director…loves it and I have been awarded the commission.
Wednesday. Wasted no time in getting the paper stencils I made for the maquette over to the waterjet cutter in Lutz to digitize. Once I know how much steel it will take to cut the full size profiles, I can get it ordered through Tampa Steel and the profiles can be cut ASAP after the material is delivered. Turns out It will fit on two 6’ x 10 sheets. I’m going over to Lutz on Monday to approve the final CAD drawings that will be used to cut the steel. If all goes according to plan, I should have the whole month of November to assemble the piece and get it installed at the museum by December 9th when they are planning a VIP unveiling gala for it in conjunction with the opening of the Frida Kahlo exhibit.
Mary Anderson, my contact at Tampa Steel, said they want to do some publicity on the sculpture after it’s completed to display to their customers the range of use of their materials.
Brian introduced me via email to Kathy Greif the Chief Marketing Officer and Chelsey Marketing Manager at the Dali. They said they were running promotional ideas for my mustache by their outside PR firm.
It took 3 hours on the computer, screen sharing with the water jet guy for me to remotely re-draw the profiles to my satisfaction. We also created the flange, gussets and holes/slots for the mounting pipe. Got the steel delivered and it’s going to be cut on Friday, so if all goes well, I will have the profiles in my studio by early November.
Built a long wooden mounting jig for the support pipes that will enable me to bolt them together in the exact orientation needed. This will help insure the two halves of the mustache line up. The Dali is going to be responsible for the excavation and concrete pour.
Today the profiles were cut from the corTEN sheets and all went well. The first major hurdle is cleared. They are palletised and ready for transport to the studio on Tuesday of next week. Len from WEDU project and Linda from Tampa Steel were on hand to photograph and video the process.
November 1. The profiles and pipes were delivered to the studio this afternoon and they looked superb. The forklift took them off the truck and loaded them into the studio. I stacked one side up on the table using wood blocks as spacers and everything was perfect, the scale, the relationship of the profiles and the space between them, all good.
November 2. My assistant Grace helped me cut up and move the large drop plates from the studio floor and stack the pieces on the side wall. We also started grinding the “hair” texture lines into one of the large profiles. Which turned out to be as difficult as I had anticipated. A few small slips were hardly noticeable but made me want to add more random marks to make it look more hairlike. Linda from Tampa steel was on hand to photograph the morning’s work. One fortuitous discovery we hit upon when wiping off the sharpie markings was that acetone made the steel turn a beautiful dark tone and removed the orange rust spots completely. How long it will last will be interesting to see. I ended up abandoning grinding in the hair texture in favor of gouging them in with the plasma cutter. This made for much cleaner and quicker work.
November 9. Over the past week the mustache has come together remarkably well. Today I welded the last of the profiles together and laid the whole piece out on the floor with the support pipes. Brian came by to get a tracing of the largest profile so he could make a mock up for Hank to determine how far apart the two halves should be. They decided on a 14” gap, which is much greater than I had originally planned. Brian’s going to start excavation for the pipes on site with a goal of getting the piece installed by Thanksgiving.
I suggested the Dali Museum approach Tampa Steel Supply with the idea of becoming a corporate sponsor of the piece. Seems they liked the idea and made a deal to have their name displayed on a plaque as the sponsor of the sculpture for a year.
I made the support pipe positioning jig to insure proper alignment of the two sides. It ended up being over 13’ long. I also made two more spacers, one for under each pipe that will insure they are both set at the proper height. It’s critical that the support pipes be set exactly right so that the two halves of the moustache line up evenly.
November 14. Put the last welds on the support pipes today and the piece is ready for transport to the site. Embedding the support pipes in the ground should happen later this week. After the concrete sets, the mustache can be bolted in place for a Thanksgiving Day debut.
November 15. Embedded the pipes this morning with Brian and crew. All went according to plan with the mounting jig working perfectly. We bolt on the sculpture next Monday morning.
November 21. Arrived with the profile sections stacked in the truck at 7:30am at the Dali Museum. It was a crisp 52 degree morning. Brian’s guys lifted the mustache sections one by one out of the truck and hoisted them into position on the support pipes while I screwed on the nuts. It took ten minutes to mount. My sister Linda showed up and I was happy to see her and have her share in this crowning moment. The slots I cut in the mounting flanges came in handy as I had to adjust the tips to match in the center and it worked perfectly. Several hours of photos afterwards and the Dali mustache is complete!
This is a project proposal I put together for The University of West Florida, Pensacola.
Global Warming (Ursus automobilis) is a monumental polar bear sculpture created from scrapped automobiles. The sculpture is a touchstone for climate science and global warming awareness. He stands forty-five feet tall and seventy-five feet long, towering over awe-struck visitors and passing students. This great bear will garner attention for its unique construction, ambitious scale and unforgettable visual impact, made even more remarkable by the incongruity of a polar bear in Florida.
Global Warming will be built from the ground up using partially crushed automobiles and car parts carefully stacked and secured to a steel armature that safely and securely supports the whole structure. The armature will be bolted onto four poured concrete foundations. The individual cars will be hoisted into position then welded and tied with cables to the armature, assuring the completed sculpture is one contiguous and integral unit. The completed sculpture will appear as though some cosmic magnet has miraculously pulled these vehicles together to form a perfect image of the polar bear.
An earlier version of the piece as it appeared in the book, Ice Bear, by Michael Engelhard.
The sculpture also brings attention to the proliferation and life-cycle of the gasoline powered automobile. It is thought-provoking to look at the profusion of cars that make up the bear and imagine the “lives” they led, the places they drove to, and how they ended up here to be re-invented as symbols of ecological consciousness.
Philosophically, the huge bear confronts the science of global warming and how greenhouse gases affect the planet. The use of the ubiquitous automobile is a cautionary reference to the pollution cars generate. It illustrates that eventually our reliance on fossil fuels and the resultant rise in CO2 levels will have a profound change on the Earth’s ecosystems. Climate change will not only affect the polar bear’s habitat in the arctic, it will also have a major impact in Florida due to rising sea levels.
I’ve been wanting to do a citywide public “animal parade” piece for quite some time. They feature multiple identical life-size fiberglass cows, dolphins or moose, hand-painted by local artists, displayed in public spaces throughout the host city. After the exhibition is over, the painted animals are auctioned off, and the money donated to different charities. My idea has always been to cover the fiberglass stock animal form with steel as opposed to painting it, which is the usual method of enhancement.
I finally found an event relatively close by in Pompano Beach and submitted a concept sketch. They accepted it and all that remains is to pick up the form (a rather awkward looking 5 foot tall top half of a fat fish emerging from the ground), bring it back to the studio, create magic, and deliver the finished fish back to Pompano Beach within 30 days.
The piece is progressing well, but dare I echo a familiar refrain, “It’s a lot more work than I anticipated!” The time was well worth spending, the final result is beautiful.
The finished piece.
After 20 days of work on the fiberglass fish form the Steelhead is complete. He’s bolted onto a pallet for shipping back to Pompano Beach. In realizing this project I finally got the idea of transforming an animal form in a “cowparade” exhibit, out of my system.
I have found that checking off things on my to do list makes me feel good. The reason? Well biologically, crossing an item off your list makes the brain secret a small dose of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that is responsible for giving us the feeling of satisfaction and happiness. It makes us feel good, much in the same way repeatedly hitting the play button at the casino does, or gobbling up another potato chip.
A checklist also helps organize your work efforts and break down large jobs into manageable tasks. When working on large complex sculptures I found that breaking down the production phases into a series of small steps in a list helped me psychologically deal with what originally appeared to be an insurmountable obstacle.
Twelve foot tall Running Hare sculpture under construction. Kingman, AZ.
I think most of the things that add value to your work are not insignificant and or easy. They are the opposite, large and difficult to accomplish. Chopping down huge complex projects into smaller, more manageable bites allows you to chip away at that intimidating block of stone.